Kenny Baker hopes to reprise his Star Wars role as R2-D2

Kenny Baker with R2-D2
Kenny Baker with R2-D2
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“I will drop them a few hints and hopefully they will give me a call eventually!”

Kenny Baker doesn’t know yet whether he will feature in the next instalment of Star Wars - reprising his role inside the lovable robot R2-D2.

R2-D2

R2-D2

But the announcement that filming of the next movie will take place in England, returning the cult sci-fi series to its British roots, has left the 3ft 8in actor hopeful of being part of the biggest blockbuster of 2015.

The 78-year-old, who lives in Preston, says: “I don’t know if I will be part of it, but it’s very good for the industry as whole, the filmmakers down at Pinewood.

“They’ve got some specialist people down there, the guys using woodchippers, making sets, electricians, designers, they’ve got a gang of them, a really good team, so it will be good for them.

“It will definitely please the Star Wars fan clubs. I still get letters every day and I’m going around all over the place, Birmingham, Cardiff, Toulouse in France, Essen in Germany, to the conventions.

Actor Kenny Baker with his autobiography From Tiny Acorns Mighty Oaks Do Grow

Actor Kenny Baker with his autobiography From Tiny Acorns Mighty Oaks Do Grow

“They get a few thousand people at these places at times and we’re signing autographs for them and posing for photographs.

“My expenses are paid. I don’t make a fortune but it’s ticking me over - it’s a bit of pocket money!”

The six previous Star Wars films were all partly filmed in the UK at several studios steeped in British cinematic history, including Pinewood, Elstree and Shepperton.

Star Wars: Episode VII, which is due to start production next year, will be made by Emmy-award-winning director JJ Abrams.

And the three icons of the original movies - Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher - are expected to make a comeback.

Kenny, who has appeared in around 20 films in total, including Time Bandits, Flash Gordon, Labyrinth and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, played the part of R2-D2 in all six Star Wars films.

And he also played an additional role as an Ewok called Paploo in Return of the Jedi.

He says: “It will be interesting to see what they do with this next film. I haven’t got the foggiest what they will do.

“I said I wouldn’t like to be an Ewok again. It was too uncomfortable. The costume was very hot.

“Saying that R2-D2 is not really comfortable. When I’m working it’s hard work to move it because it’s heavy. And if nothing is happening I’m just sitting in there!

“The other problem is how can you act in a robot - you can’t really can you?

“I’m not really mobile like I used to be, I’m getting too old. I haven’t got the energy to get to the phone and the front door, not like I used to.

“But getting into R2-D2 is not a problem - once I’m in, I’m in.

“When it’s moving and travelling from A to B it’s got three legs, it’s electronically controlled, but once it gets there and it’s reacting to the dialogue, that’s when I’m in it.”

“That’s when it comes to life. George Lucas has always liked it better when I’m in it.”

Before George Lucas hired Kenny to be the man inside R2-D2 in 1976, he was part of a theatrical troupe, performing in variety shows and pantomimes.

An accomplished ice-skater starring in events at home and abroad, he also played the harmonica in pubs and clubs across London, as part of a double act called The Minitones with Jack Purvis.

He says: “With Star Wars, I just fell into it I suppose, I happened to be around at the time and got the job when I went for the audition.

“After that if directors wanted somebody small they used to think of me immediately.

“It’s all part of your life, The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Anthony Hopkins and the Elephant Man with John Hurt, Sleeping Beauty with Morgan Fairchild, time in Israel, Tunisia... I’ve been all over the world really.

“In Japan they are big Star Wars fans over there, they all take it a bit too far really, they are crazy! They are all walking about in Stormtroopers’ outfits. And they’re doing it for free! You’ve got to be mad.”