Fans the world over were saddened this weekend to learn of the death of Kenny Baker, the man who brought R2-D2 to life in the original Star Wars trilogy. Being part of the most popular movie franchise ever made Baker a household name among fans, but it almost wasn't so. Following the actor's passing, we remember an interview he gave several years ago, in which he admitted that he not only turned the role down once, but three times.
While Kenny Baker is never seen in the six Star Wars films he appears in, he is nonetheless a key part of the franchise. R2-D2 is the first hero we actually meet in the original film, and it's him that we follow until the droids cross paths with Luke Skywalker. Kenny Baker was the man who made R2 a character, but back in 2004, on the eve of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, he told The Hollywood Reporter that he originally turned down the role. As one might expect, the prospect of spending filming inside the robot was not particularly enticing, and doing it for a film that was expected to fail seemed like a waste of time.
I didn't enjoy it at all, I didn't like it all. I didn't think it was gonna be very successful. So I turned it down about three times ... I thought, 'Well, I'd rather not be stuck in a robot, to be honest.' But they talked me into it and, as we all know now, it was a big success.
We can certainly understand the desire to not be stuck inside R2-D2 all day long, especially working on a location set in the desert. It doesn't sound like the least amount of fun. Even following the massive success that Star Wars had, it probably only mitigated the difficulties of playing the part a little bit. Of course, to some extent Kenny Baker came to terms with it all. Not only did he play the role in the original Star Wars trilogy, but he came back to do it again in the prequels. He received a credit as a consultant for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There was no need for him to be inside the robot for that film, as everything with R2-D2 was done digitally.
On August 13, Kenny Baker passed away following a prolonged illness. The 83-year-old actor hadn't been able to attend the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Hollywood due to his failing health. Condolence messages have been coming from all parts of the Star Wars galaxy following the news.
We're glad that Kenny Baker finally made the decision to bring life to R2-D2. The character was one of the most important in the entire franchise, and simply because we never saw the man, doesn't mean he didn't bring something special to the role.