Who doesn't love R2-D2? I mean honestly, whether you are a fan of Star Wars, the prequels, or the spin-offs, you have to love the spunky little droid on two wheels. When my friends and I first became enamored with the Star Wars universe way back in the day, we always wondered "Were there people in the droids?" Well now I know the answer is yes, and that man is Kenny Baker.
Kenny Baker was born in Birmingham, England on August 24, 1934, obviously making him a British citizen. Being born a dwarf, Kenny quickly learned how to adapt in order to live a standard life. At the age of 6, he enrolled at the Shaftesbury Society, located in London. Passing on public education due to his short stature, the Shaftesbury Society specialized in educating children with 'disabilities'.
Mr. Baker's professional career began when he was 16 years old. Kenny decided that he was going to make the best out of his condition and joined the Burton Lester's Midgets production company as a performer. It was here that Kenny learned how to really use his size as an advantage while performing on stage.
After the very enlightening time at Burton Lester's, Kenny took up DJing with the Mecca Organization. He didn't find this trade to be to his liking, and moved onto the Billy Smart Circus performing as a clown and a shadow ringmaster. He enjoyed this job very much, and even today Kenny talks about his days with the circus with a gleam in his eye.
Realizing the need to move on yet again, Kenny decided he wanted to travel and did so by performing panto and ice shows. It was this posting that he had the honor of meeting England's reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth. He left the ice shortly after the meeting with the queen to form a musical comedy act; The Mini Tones.
With his time with The Tones behind him, Kenny became a performer in a nightclub with his good friend Jack Purvis. It was this friendship that would bring our dear Kenny into the role that would forever define him.
Purvis was already cast in Star Wars, due to a friendship with director George Lucas . . . and he wanted his friend to be cast as well. George had an idea for Baker as a Cantina alien, but when he saw
Kenny for the first time and his subsequent stature; he immediately cast him for the role of R2-D2.
So in 1977, Baker starred in what would be his signature work. Fans immediately fell for the cocky droid with the neurotic friend C-3PO, and became a worldwide sensation. Demand for public appearances skyrocketed with the success of "Star Wars", and Kenny was catapulted into the worldwide limelight for the first time. It is this fame that ensured him, along with fellow man-in-droid Anthony Daniels, a role in all six "Star Wars" movies; quite the impressive streak.
Since the "Wars", Baker has kept himself busy with the sequels and prequels of the franchise as well as performing in other works of note such as "Labyrinth", "Willow", and "The Elephant Man". He is also still in high public demand and keeps a busy schedule with convention and miscellaneous other appearances worldwide.
Kenny prefers to keep his private life just that; private. He is married, and has two grown sons. Kenny Baker is one of the most beloved of all the characters in "Star Wars", and to those that knew him before his fame in the United States, will forever be immortalized as a first class performer off the silver screen.
Editor's note: Kenny Baker died at his home in Lancashire on August 13, 2016, at the age of 81.
roninspoon adds: 'i once saw this guy get into a drunken argument with a talking parrot at a hotel/resort in Phoenix, AZ a couple of years ago.'
biographical info: www.kennybaker.com, www.imdb.com, www.starwars.com/bio/kennybaker.html