The Droid We Were Looking For

The Droid We Were Looking For

Rachel Bell, Mustang Reporter

September 6, 2016

As many have heard, Kenny Baker died on August 13 at the age of 81. According to CNN, this is on account of a long battle with a lung condition. Most people don’t know the actor by name, but they know the beloved Star Wars character, R2-D2. Baker portrayed the robot for nearly forty years, since the first movie in the series was released in 1977. He stood 3 feet, 8 inches tall, was a prolific actor, and as co-star Mark Hamill put it, “a lifelong loyal friend”.

Of all the deaths in 2016, this one hits closest to home for high school students, simply for the fact that Star Wars is one of the most popular franchises to our demographic. With Disney buying the rights, the world has been promised a new film every year. Last December, The Force Awakens made a huge splash at the box office, making over $2 billion through the course of its time in theaters. This winter, we’ll get Rogue One, a prequel focusing on a group of Rebels, set during the events of A New Hope. Darth Vader is expected to return, to the excitement of fans. But someone won’t be returning.

Baker never once showed his face in any of the seven Star Wars films he performed in, but he gave life to R2 in a way that can never be replicated. The android may remain, but the wizard behind the curtain is gone. The actor that replaces him will surely be superb, but he won’t be the original. The last two or three generations have grown up with this series, but from now on, something will be different. The character will return and have the same personality, but it goes deeper than that. Most people might believe that his passing isn’t that big of a deal. We can just put another person in a suit, right?

It’s not that simple. The original cast of Star Wars, including Baker, created a legacy that can’t easily be forgotten. Suit or not, he was just important to the movie as Harrison Ford or Carrie Fisher, who played Han Solo and Princess Leia, respectively. There’s something magical about the first of something. Fans of this series should know that better than anyone. The prequel trilogy is widely considered to not be as good as the original one. Maybe, hopefully, fans will hold Baker in the same reverence.

R2-D2 is one of the most recognizable characters in cinematic history, and now the actor that portrayed him has tragically passed away. He will have to be replaced, and even though the movie will look the same, it won’t be. Fans will know. They will recognize his legacy, but hopefully be respectful of the new actor. After all, as they say in the business, “the show must go on”. Still, though, we can mourn. We can miss him. And that’s okay. We’ve lost an integral part of our culture. Kenny Baker has made his mark on history as R2-D2, the Droid We Were Looking For.