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While fans are still waiting to find out exactly what Lucasfilm is going to do following the death of Carrie Fisher, she's not the only actor who has passed away during the current Star Wars trilogy. Kenny Baker, the man who played R2-D2, died last August. For better or worse, however, it's much easier to simply replace an actor that you never see. It has been announced that actor Jimmy Vee will be taking over the part when we see the droid in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Technically, Kenny Baker was not a member of the cast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Instead, he was listed as a consultant. This may have simply been because R2-D2's part in the film was only slightly larger than that of Luke Skywalker. He's only seen in a couple of scenes and only moves and speaks in one of them. The announcement of Vee's casting says that he worked alongside Baker learning how he brought R2-D2 "to life" which would seem to imply that, much like Luke Skywalker, R2-D2 will have much more to do in the new movie.
The comment also makes it sound like it may have been the plan to pass on the role of R2-D2 even if Kenny Baker was still alive. The actor had been very ill during the last few years of his life and was even too sick to travel to the Los Angeles premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If the two actors had worked together it may very well have been because they knew at some point Baker would be too sick to work. He passed away in August at 81.
It's unfortunate because nobody will even realize that there's a different person inside the droid costume of R2-D2. Instead, many who sit and watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi in December will be looking at Carrie Fisher and realizing that they're witnessing her last major film role. At this point, we still don't have any clear idea as to how Fisher's death will impact the trilogy. Lucasfilm has come out to say that they will not be using Rogue One like CGI to create the character of Princess Leia. since recasting is even less likely, that means that Leia simply won't appear in Star Wars: Episode IX. Though she'll be conspicuous by her absence unless something is done to write her off, and we have no idea what that will be.
We're glad that the role of R2-D2 is in good hands. We're looking forward to seeing more of our favorite droid when Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrives December 15.