THE force was with Star Wars actor Kenny Baker as he faced his final curtain.
A galaxy of celebrities gathered at his funeral in Lancashire to pay homage to “a little man with a huge heart.”
Kenny, who played the droid R2-D2 in six of the Star Wars films, died last week at his home in Preston after a long illness. He was 81.
Fellow cast members David Prowse (Darth Vader) and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) were among a host of showbiz stars who travelled to Lytham Park Crematorium to say their goodbyes.
Prowse, the former bodybuilder and Green Cross Code Man who appeared alongside Kenny from the first Star Wars film back in 1977, told the Evening Post: “I’ve lost a great friend and I miss him terribly.
“We saw each other every couple of months for donkeys years. We met up at Star Wars conventions around the world.
“Kenny was a very nice man. There wasn’t a bad word you could say about him.”
Bulloch, who was with Kenny in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, added: “There will never be another quite like him.
“I had some great times with Kenny. I’m going to miss his jokes, his sense of humour and also the courage he showed in the last few years of his life.”
Amongst the stars paying their respects to the 3ft 8in tall actor, comedian and musician were funnymen Bernie Clifton and Stu Francis, band leader Andy Prior, model-turned-actress Linda Lusardi, former Preston North End footballer Kevin Davies and diminutive actor Rusty Gough.
Comic Ken Dodd sent a message describing Kenny as “a wonderful little man with a huge heart.” He went on: “He was always laughing, always smiling and always telling jokes.
“He had a kind word for everyone. He was R2-D2, he was our Kenny and he was a joy to this world.”
Entertainer Joe Pasquale also sent his love and his apologies for not attending due to touring commitments.
A floral wreath arrived from Star Wars creator George Lucas. The message read: “Ken brought so much joy into the world. He will be missed by all his fans and his Star Wars family. Our thoughts are with you. Much love. All his friends at Lucas Film and Disney.”
Kenny made his final journey in his favourite mode of transport - a Rolls Royce. His coffin was laid across the back seat of a gleaming black limousine.
Michael Brabin, who conducted the service, said: “Kenny wasn’t a religious person and wouldn’t have welcomed a lot of ceremony.
“It is how we live our lives that determines how we will be remembered. And Kenny managed to squeeze every last bit of enjoyment out of his 81 years.
“He will be remembered by a great many people for a long time to come. He brought joy to millions and was a true professional. But mostly he will be remembered as tremendous fun - I can’t think of a better epitaph.”
One of Kenny’s two sons, Chris, told a packed crematorium chapel: “He was just a great dad. He was often away working, but when he was home he was fun around the house.
“His fans loved him because he always had time for them. Just enjoy the films and watch him on Youtube. Enjoy and remember. He was a good man.”
One of Kenny’s best friends, Drew Myerscough, said: “I was knocking about with him for 26 or 27 years. It wasn’t anything to do with his fame because, if I’m honest, I haven’t got a clue what goes on in Star Wars.
“But we always got on because he had a very positive outlook and he was good to be with.
“At 3ft 8ins he lived the life of a six-footer.”
BBC Radio producer Steve Garner added: “Despite his stature he was a real giant and determined to succeed.”
And Rusty Gough, who appeared with Kenny in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, said: “I knew him for over 50 years and I had some fantastic times with him. I’ll miss him, he was a great friend. A star.”