As an awkward, chubby, and short elementary school kid back in 1977, I was not naturally drawn to the ultra-cool Han Solo, the rebellious Luke Skywalker, or the ominously powerful Darth Vader. It was another, less prominent character that connected with me in a way I was, yet, too young to understand. R2-D2 had no human voice, but he still managed to be brave, and funny, and surprisingly empathetic. The little droid was the first Star Wars action figure I ever owned and is the only original toy still in my collection.
Well, the man who gave that little blue and white machine its beating heart, Kenny Baker, passed away today at the age of 83. The subtle yet powerful gestures Baker used to bring R2 to life in those early films resonate with us even today. He made Lucas’ creation so much more than comic relief. His masterful acting melted away the exterior of that bulky costume and made us fall in love with our first droid. We laughed at C-3P0, but we loved R2.
We are saddened that you have left us, Sir Baker, but we are forever thankful for making that awkward child, in all of us, a little braver, through the life you breathed into R2D2.