Kenny Baker, the actor who played Artoo, has died at the age of 81. The 3 foot, 8 inch actor was the man inside the droid for the original and prequel trilogies. He also played Paploo the Ewok in Return of the Jedi, and appeared in Time Bandits and Flash Gordon
Baker has been ill for some time. “It was expected, but it’s sad nonetheless. He had a very long and fulfilled life,” his niece, Abigail Shield, told the Guardian. “He brought lots of happiness to people and we’ll be celebrating the fact that he was well loved throughout the world. We’re all very proud of what he achieved in his lifetime.”
Peter Mayhew posted “a final farewell to my little friend with the giant heart” on Chewbacca.com on Monday.
“Goodbye #KennyBaker,” Mark Hamill tweeted. “A lifelong loyal friend-I loved his optimism & determination. He WAS the droid I was looking for!” Fellow actors Ewan McGregor and Warwick Davis also posted remembrances on Twitter.
George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy spoke about Baker on StarWars.com. Lucas calls him “a real gentleman” and “an incredible trooper,” while Kennedy says “There is no Star Wars without R2-D2, and Kenny defined who R2-D2 was and is. He will be greatly missed.”
Under the cut, tweets remembering Baker. Continue reading
Richard Bonehill, who played Nien Nunb in Return of the Jedi, has passed away at age 67. Nunb is his most recognizable Star Wars role, but the expert swordsman also played troopers, pilots, aliens and even a tauntaun handler in ROTJ and The Empire Strikes Back.
Actor Khan Bonfils, who played Jedi Master Saesee Tiin in The Phantom Menace, has died. Bonfils was in rehersals for Dante’s Inferno with the Craft Theatre company when he collapsed yesterday and could not be resuscitated, according to The Independent.
In addition to The Phantom Menace, Bonfils had appeared in Skyfall, Batman Begins, and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life.
Aaron Allston is one of Cracked’s overlooked deaths of 2014. Sure, he may not be overlooked to us, but the mainstream is another matter. And, as another Jader pointed out, he’d get a huge kick out of being described as “author of Star Wars storylines J.J. Abrams will probably disregard.” Yub yub, Emperor.
Jim Macdonald at Making Light reports that Ann Crispin died this morning. She had posted a final message on Facebook only days ago.
Veteran British cinematographer Gilbert Taylor has passed away at the age of 99, his wife told BBC News. In addition to Star Wars, his credits included Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove and The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night.
Mark Newbold wrote about Taylor today for StarWars.com, and here he is talking about filming the attack on the Death Star:
A special person to the Star Wars fan community has passed away.
Leah Esquanazi, better known as Princess Leah, suffered from a mitochondrial disease that caused her to have breathing difficulties and a related disorder that caused blindness. Her parents are big Star Wars fans and are very involved in fandom. When word went out that Leah was ill, the fans rallied to get funds together several times through collections and auctions so that her parents could cover their extensive time away from work and, eventually, the high costs associated with her care.
Even though she struggled with many health problems, her parents tried to give her an active life full of adventures that they chronicled on their blog and Facebook page.
Keep an eye out on their Facebook page for any planned tributes.
Ray Harryhausen, whose stop-motion animation made monsters come alive in films from the 30’s through the 80’s, has passed away, his family has announced. He was 93.
Stop-motion may be cheesey to those of us who grew up in the post-Star Wars era, but Harryhausen’s work – the most famous of which is perhaps the fighting skeletons of Jason and the Argonauts – was hugely influential. (Though to this 80s’ kid, it’s his Medusa in the original Clash of the Titans who kept me up at night!)
“Ray has been a great inspiration to us all in special visual industry. The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much,” said George Lucas. “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars.”
Roger Ebert, perhaps the most well-known film critic of the past several decades, has died after a long battle with cancer, his longtime paper the Chicago Sun-Times has announced.
Only days ago, Ebert posted his last blog entry, annoucing “a leave of presence” and further plans for RogerEbert.com. “Thank you for going on this journey with me,” he wrote. “I’ll see you at the movies.”
Ebert reviewed films for 46 years in the Sun-Times and for 31 on TV. After losing part of his jaw in 2006 and being unable to speak, he turned to the internet. His Twitter account, @ebertchicago, was a must-follow for anyone interested in film.
Ebert, along with his colleague Gene Siskel, was the first film critic I ever knew, and perhaps the only one whose reviews I read consistently. Siskel & Ebert & the Movies, which aired Saturday mornings in Detroit, was a regular staple of my childhood.
And to bring it back to Star Wars… Only weeks ago, a 1983 video of Siskel and Ebert defending Return of the Jedi was making the rounds again. Of course, George Lucas has never been much for critics, and one of the monsters in 1988’s Willow was named “Eborsisk” for the pair. (They weren’t singled out: General Kael got his name from The New Yorker’s Pauline Kael)
Ebert was one of the greats: He could be funny and biting, but classy, plus a truly engaging writer. He will be missed.
Original trilogy make-up artist Stuart Freeborn has died at age 98, the BBC reports.
Freeborn worked on many celebrated films, including Stanley Kubrick’s Doctor Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey, but Star Wars fans will know him best as the man who created Chewbacca, Jabba the Hutt and Yoda. He famously based Yoda’s face on Albert Einstein – and himself.
StarWars.com writes more about his Star Wars contributions, as well as comment from George Lucas:
“Stuart was already a makeup legend when he started on Star Wars,” said George Lucas. “He brought with him not only decades of experience, but boundless creative energy. His artistry and craftsmanship will live on forever in the characters he created. His Star Wars creatures may be reinterpreted in new forms by new generations, but at their heart, they continue to be what Stuart created for the original films.”
Below the cut, a two-part documentary where Freeborn talks about his work.