Kenny Baker was “the heart and soul of R2-D2” said Star Wars director George Lucas in a eulogy for the actor, who passed away at the age of 81 on Saturday. “He WAS the droid I was looking for!” co-star Mark Hamill tweeted.
However, Baker didn’t even want the physically demanding role that made him feel like a “boiled egg.” He only accepted after learning who had been cast as Obi-Wan Kenobi.
“I thought if Alec Guinness is in it, he knows more than I do about filming, that’s for sure,” Baker recalled. “It must be a decent film otherwise he wouldn’t be in it.”
Baker continued to reprise the role up until Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which he served as a consultant for R2-D2.
Kenny Baker gets closeup as Fidgit in Time Bandits
Baker may be remembered as the man behind R2-D2; however, his most visible role was as Fidgit in Time Bandits. He didn’t have the lead but he did have the most memorable scene. The kind-hearted dwarf is crushed by a falling column while fighting Evil incarnate (David Warner), who is ultimately turned to stone by the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson). God’s little helpers are tasked with collecting the pieces of concentrated evil.
“Dead? No excuse for laying off work,” says the Supreme Being before resurrecting Fidgit.
Baker will surely be up to whatever the real Supreme Being has in store for him. The tireless actor defied the odds all his life explained Baker’s niece, Abigail Shield.
“When he was a child, he was told that he probably wouldn’t survive through puberty, being a little person in those times, they didn’t have a very good life expectancy,” Shield told the Guardian. “He did extremely well in his life.”
Star gets the credit he deserves
Author Robert Hewison compared the dwarfs to the Monty Python troupe, which included Time Bandits writers Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam. Fidgit was said to be the nice once, Palin. Gilliam honored Baker with a Monty Python inspired tribute.
“FIDGIT FINDS THE GRAIL AND IS MADE A SAINT!!” Gilliam wrote on Facebook. “Alas, at 81 Kenny Baker has left us and rejoined the Supreme Being. Kenny was made famous by Star Wars, but Time Bandits made him great. No longer did he have to be the faceless man in the can, he got to be a real action hero. Kenny was irrepressible, funny, game for anything, and attracted to tall blondes.. and they to him. He was an utter joy to be with.. a consumate pro. Goodbye with love, St. Fidgit, Kevin will have to stay here and carry on the fight.”
There’s no more fitting way to conclude than with the Time Bandits credits featuring George Harrison’s soulful song “Dream Away.” The credits end with Kevin (Craig Warnock) taking a picture of a moment of levity among the actors that endlessly loops. In much the same way, Baker will live on in his movies.