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Kenny Baker, Iconic ‘Star Wars’ Actor, Passes Away at 81

Kenny Baker 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Premiere
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Kenny Baker, the actor who portrayed the beloved droid R2-D2 in the Star Wars series, passed away on Saturday (August 13). He was 81.

According to his niece and nephew, Abigail Shield and Andrew Myerscough, the actor passed away in his sleep and was found early Saturday morning. Shield explained that her uncle had been ill with a lung condition for years, and that because he was a “little person,” it was “pretty amazing he lived this long” as he was not expected to “live past his teenage years,” CNN reports.

Myerscough, who cared for Baker on a daily basis, added that his uncle’s wish was to go peacefully and that prior to falling asleep he was watching the Olympics on TV.

“I couldn’t ask for more,” he told CNN.

Baker, who was 3 feet, 8 inches tall, paved the way for other persons of short stature in the entertainment industry, breaking many stigmas surrounding the abilities and talents of LP in Hollywood and inspiring actors like Warwick Davis and Verne Troyer.

Born on August 24, 1934 in Birmingham, England, the actor lived a prolific, vaudevillian life. In the 1950s, he joined a theatrical troupe and then a circus, where he learned to ice skate. Later, he started a comedy act with fellow performer and future Star Wars co-star Jack Purvis.

Baker made his cinematic debut in Circus of Horrors, a British horror B-movie released in 1960, and in 1976 he was hired by George Lucas to perform as a small, spunky droid called R2-D2 in what would eventually become the largest, most culturally iconic sci-fi franchise in history.

He appeared as the beloved robot in six Star Wars movies, including Lucas’s prequels, as well as provided consultation for the character in 2015’s The Force Awakens.

Throughout his career, Baker also starred in films like Labyrinth, Willow and The King and I.

Following the news of his passing, across social media Hollywood stars, filmmakers and members of Baker’s own Star Wars family shared their condolences, fond memories and emotional farewells.

Mark Hamill, the actor behind Luke Skywalker, wrote on Twitter, “Goodbye Kenny Baker. A lifelong loyal friend — I loved his optimism and determinism. He WAS the droid I was looking for!”

Dave Prowse, who played Darth Vader (but not his voice, which was provided by James Earl Jones), shared, “Very sorry to hear about Kenny. He was a great personal friend that I thoroughly enjoyed working with.”

Meanwhile, Anthony Daniels, who famously portrayed fellow droid C-3PO alongside Baker’s R2-D2, said via Twitter, “Sad to hear of Kenny’s passing. [One] of the truly original cast, so famed for his iconic role as R2. He’ll always be remembered by so many fans.”

See more reactions to Baker’s passing, below:

Stars We’ve Lost in 2016:

NEXT: 'STAR TREK' ACTOR ANToN YELCHIN DEAD AT 27

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