Him & His Shadow.

Source: The Guardian

Another kid and I were arguing about Star Wars. This was the late ‘70’s and we were both kids so of course Star Wars was on our minds. If we weren’t talking about it we were acting out scenes and making up our own stories, and if we weren’t doing that we were arguing about it. I was telling him about an article I’d read about the special effects in Star Wars and how they were done. He was shocked that C-3PO and R2-D2 were played by people, that they weren’t real robots. He got pretty upset about it too and finally went off in a huff saying, “Well the spaceships didn’t have people in ‘em! They were real!”

I feel kind of bad for spoiling the illusion for him but for me, as much as I would have liked to be in a world of real robots and spaceships, there was something just as cool about knowing the robots were real people.

Kenny Baker, the very real person who played R2-D2 in the first six Star Wars films, passed away recently.

The funny thing is when I heard the news I didn’t think about Star Wars. My first thought was Terry Gilliam’s movie Time Bandits, which came out between the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. I saw it in the theater and while there was a lot about it that stuck with me—I was just discovering Monty Python at the time—the main thing was Kenny Baker was in the main cast. I purposely looked for him in the film, always thinking, That’s the guy who plays R2-D2.

That seems strangely poignant now considering that Time Bandits is about a young boy who gets dragged into a fantastic adventure by a quintet of time travelers—one of whom is Kenny Baker. Fantasy in Time Bandits isn’t an illusion; it’s simply another layer of reality. And he helped make it real.

Hail and farewell Kenny Baker.

10 Comments

  1. Chuck Baudelaire

    You’re not alone. Time Bandits was my first thought, too. I’m way overdue to watch it again. RIP, big guy.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m long overdue for a rewatch too. I’ve been meaning to watch Time Bandits again ever since I read the Wikipedia article on it. There’s an intriguing note that the time travelers are a comment on the Python troupe with Fidgit–the one played by Kenny Baker–being Michael Palin, “the nice one”.
      From what I’ve heard about Kenny Baker that’s fitting.

      Reply
  2. Arionis

    I’ll raise a glass to Kenny. I have vivid memories of going to the movies to see Time Bandits as a kid.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’ll raise a glass with you. Time Bandits was an all around weird film, wasn’t it? Somehow it made more sense to me when I was a kid than it does now.

      Reply
      1. Arionis

        Funny how some movies seem awesome when you are a kid and not so much as an adult. I remember thinking that Legend with Tom Cruise was the shit when I was a kid. Later on, viewed as an adult, I was saying what the hell is this shit?

        Reply
        1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

          Well Legend had Tim Curry, although even with him it doesn’t hold a candle to Muppet Treasure Island.

          Reply
  3. mydangblog

    Wow–I always knew C3P0 was played by a person, but I had no idea that R2D2 was as well. RIP Kenny Baker. He gave that robot a lot of personality!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      He really did. I’ve heard him say in interviews that the crew would sometimes forget about him and go off for lunch leaving him stuck in his costume, but he seemed really good-natured about it, like it was a bit of a compliment to be so indistinguishable from his character. But he made R2 come to life.

      Reply
  4. Ann Koplow

    Hail to Kenny and to you, Chris.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Hail to you for adding to this tribute.

      Reply

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