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Kenny Baker alias R2-D2
"I only did the film because Sir Alec was already signed up"
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Monday, 7 August, 2000, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
'R2-D2' recalls Sir Alec Guinness

The late Sir Alec Guinness was famous for many acting roles, but Star Wars won him the most fame. Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2, pays tribute to the great actor.

Alec Guinness despaired of his Star Wars character for its "shoddy dialogue", but he gave credibility to a cast of then relatively unknown actors.

At least, that is the opinion of Kenny Baker, the man who inhabited the shell of robot R2-D2.

"Everybody was so excited that [Alec Guinness] was in the film. Nobody else knew anybody else. We were all unknowns at that time," Baker told BBC News Online.

Kenny Baker
Man in the can: Kenny Baker takes a rest during filming
He first met Guinness, who played Obi-Wan Kenobi, while boarding a flight at Gatwick Airport in 1976, which had been chartered for the Star Wars cast and crew. With director George Lucas, they were bound for Tunisia to film the movie's opening desert scenes.

Baker, one of Britain's best-known dwarf actors, was initially struck by the great man's informality.

"As we walked on there was someone there to introduce us to him in the front row of seats. 'Oh hello Sir Alec, nice to meet you', I said.

'Call me Alec'

"'Oh please don't call me Sir Alec, just Alec' he replied."

But Baker and the rest of the crew were too much in awe of this towering talent to abide by his request for informality, and they persisted in addressing him by his title.

I don't think he was too happy about being in the film. He probably thought it was just a piece of cake

Kenny Baker
"He got fantastic respect from everybody. Harrison Ford was never heard of in those days. He was a youngster - the same with Carrie Fisher and Mark [Hamill]."

On set, Guinness was a true professional, choosing not to reveal any of his reservations about the film, says Baker.

"He was just amazing the way he was acting, When they said 'cut' he walked away and was rehearsing his lines, rather than going off for a cup of tea."

Kept his distance

Despite his lack of ceremony, Guinness and his wife, who accompanied him on the filming trip, were not matey with the rest of the cast.

"He didn't socialise with us. He was a pretty private man ... a distant presence," says Baker, 64.

But there was one occasion when Baker witnessed the star's kindly spirit.

Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford
Apart from Guinness, the Star Wars cast were mostly unknowns
"I had a day off and I was walking down the street one day and this Mercedes pulls up alongside me and Alec Guinness leaned out and said: 'what are you doing Kenny?'

"I said 'I'm just walking around and he said 'do you want to come and see an oasis with my wife and I?'

"There was nothing arrogant or flash about him at all. He was just a working actor and a good actor."

Concerns kept quiet

Baker says Guinness mostly hid his antipathy towards the movie and its script.

"I don't think he was too happy about being in the film. He probably thought it was just a piece of cake and it was convenient to do it at the time."

Star Wars fans at premiere
Storming reception: Audiences loved Star Wars and Guinness made millions
Famously Guinness earned millions from the film after opting for a cut of its box office takings.

Baker didn't profit to anything like the same extent, but has earned a handsome sum for acting the three subsequent Star Wars films. And for that he is indebted to Guinness, whose name on the cast list convinced him to sign up.

"I only did it because he was in it," says Baker, who admits to initially turning down the part of the loveable but obstinate "'droid".

"I thought if Alec Guinness is in it, he knows more than I do about filming, that's for sure. It must be a decent film otherwise he wouldn't be in it."

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07 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Acting world mourns Sir Alec
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