R2D2 CU 4 III

Preston's very own Hollywood superstar is helping to resurrect a cinematic legend once more.

Kenny Baker, who lives in Ashton, Preston, will step back into his R2D2 costume for Star Wars Episode III.

Key characters and actors are being used to bridge the prequel trilogy with the original three films.

And Kenny, who stands at 3ft 8in, is joined by Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca –making a comeback after Return Of The Jedi – and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO in the movie, which is currently in pre-production.

Baker and Daniels are the only actors to have appeared in all six films.

Daniels squeezed into C-3PO's golden suit in the original film but lent his voice to a puppet for Star Wars Episode One, the fourth film in the series.

But special affection is held at the highest level for R2D2, with film director George Lucas saying Baker being physically inside the

suit brings "an element of humanity" to the character.

R2-D2 has gradually got more animated but Lucas says it is "part of Star Wars tradition" to include the 68-year-old as

the droid.

Lucas said: "Baker was essential to the early R2 seen in A New Hope, when

limitations in remote control and computer technology required a person beneath the dome to bring R2 to life."

Kenny sits on a special seat and rocks the droid from side to side, turns its head, activates lights and creates gestures. And

getting into the costume is getting harder as the years pass.

Kenny said: "Well they don't use me as often as the might've done in the previous films, because they can move the robot better, it's got more movement.

"There's not a lot you can do R2 except move his head around and wobble him around. George has always said that it comes to life more with me inside it and I think the fans who see every movie and know everything that goes on more than I do, they seem to like it when I'm inside it because it gives it more life."

Baker's life in the spotlight started on stage in Burton Lester's Midgets and he performed as a DJ, a circus clown, in pantomimes and ice shows before landing the part that would change his life.

Kenny's footprints, inside R2-D2, are also imprinted in cement outside Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

R2-D2 and C-3PO were based on Laurel & Hardy and were named after an incident during the filming of George Lucas' movie American Graffiti, when a technician asked Lucas for reel number two, dialogue track number two.

Episode three, which does not have a name yet, will be released on May 25 2005 – the 28th anniversary of the first film.

e-mail: alan.burrows@lep.co.uk