British actor Kenny Baker, best known for playing robot character R2-D2 in the first six Star Wars films, has passed away. He was 81.
His niece, Abigail Shield, said the demise was expected as Baker had been ill for a long time, reported The Guardian.
"It was expected, but it’s sad nonetheless. He had a very long and fulfilled life. He brought lots of happiness to people and we’ll be celebrating the fact that he was well loved throughout the world. We’re all very proud of what he achieved in his lifetime," she said.
Other credits of the actor, who stood 3 feet 8 inches tall, include Flash Gordon and Labyrinth.
"When he was a child, he was told that he probably wouldn’t survive for long. Being a little person in those times, they didn’t have a very good life expectancy," Shield said of Baker.
"He did extremely well in his life. He was very ill for the last few years so we had been expecting it. He had been looked after by one of his nephews, who found him on Saturday morning," she added.
Baker was also able to attend the London premiere of the latest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens.
He first played R2-D2 in the first Star Wars movie in 1977. He went on to reprise the role of the droid in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi as well as the three Star Wars prequels George Lucas directed from 1999 to 2005.
Lucas acknowledged Baker’s passing on StarWars.com.
"Kenny Baker was a real gentleman as well as an incredible trooper who always worked hard under difficult circumstances.
A talented vaudevillian who could always make everybody laugh, Kenny was truly the heart and soul of R2-D2 and will be missed by all his fans and everyone who knew him," the filmmaker said.
Mark Hamill, just one of Baker’s co-stars and fans who paid tribute to him on social media, remembered him.
"Goodbye #KennyBaker A lifelong loyal friend-I loved his optimism & determination He WAS the droid I was looking for!" Hamill tweeted.