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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

And... Kenny Baker!

From Wikimedia Commons, by Mean Mr Mustard

While we're all mourning Carrie Fisher, I thought I might mention another member of the Star Wars cast  who has left us, Kenny Baker, who was R2D2 in most of the films. I only learned about it a couple of days ago, though it happened in August. At least he made it to 82. Which doesn't make him less missed.

I had a chance to hear him speak at a science fiction convention here in Melbourne once. He was guest of honour, but at the last minute we also had Dave Prowse, who played the body of Darth Vader in the films(he didn't know about James Earl Jones doing the voice till after the first film was released!) So there they were, these two men, sitting side by side in the question and answer session, one very tall, the other very small, and I couldn't help thinking that they had both, over the years, been cast for size rather than acting. Dave Prowse was polite and mild-mannered; Kenny Baker was sharp in his comments about at least one fellow cast member. (I should add that the said cast member about whom he was rude came to Australia for another convention and, as well as his guest duties, he helped set up scenery for an event during the con and made sure that those of us who had volunteered were looked after afterwards.)

But he was straightforward about the matter of his height. "I know I'm never going to play Hamlet," he said. Which hadn't stopped him from getting plenty of work - and he had a cabaret partner, Jack Purvis, who was a Jawa in the first film. He mentioned another dwarf actor who hadn't been able to cope with his lack of major roles and committed suicide. That wasn't going to happen to him! 

In Return Of The Jedi, R2D2 was remote controlled, so he was going to play Wicket, the head Ewok, instead, but he got sick and the role went to a young boy in his early teens, called Warwick Davis. Heard the name? You should have. His career has gone very nicely, thank you, with roles from the title role in Willow to Reepicheep the Mouse in the TV version of The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader

However, this post is about Kenny Baker. You may think you haven't seen much of him, but just check out his filmography on Wikipedia and you'll find you have. 

Not at all bad for someone who knew he would never play Hamlet! 

***Update! Debbie Reynolds has died, only a day after he daughter, Carrie Fisher. Very sad, first to lose her child, then to follow her so soon! Especially sad for the family to lose two members in a row. Not a good time! ***

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