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  Kenny Baker (R2-D2)
Updated 08 November 2001, 18.22
Kenny webchat
Star Wars actor Kenny Baker, the man inside the legendary droid R2-D2 was with us for a live webchat.

If you missed the live version, you can still catch up on his chat by clicking on the link below:

  Watch chat  

What did you think of the new trailer for Episode II: Attack of the Clones?

Kenny: I thought it was great, I haven't seen it before and my son had seen it but I hadn't. There was a quick of flash of R2 in there and I wasn't quite sure whether it was me or not, it was a two-legged version but whether I was in it or not I'm not quite sure.

Have you actually finished all the filming for Episode 2 now?

Kenny: Well as far as I know. I mean I finished last February in Ealing, and I only needed a couple of quick shots down there and I thought that was the end of the shoot - the family were there this week and I think George keeps thinking of extra bits to put in fillers.

Jane, 13, Lancaster and Adam, 12, Norwich
What is your favourite Star Wars film and why?

Kenny: Well I think the film almost everybody says is The Empire Strike Back because I enjoyed the AT-ATS scene with the fighters tying the legs up and falling flat on their face in the snow, I thought that was funny. And then Return of the Jedi was okay for the Ewoks. They were great to look at, but they were terrible costumes to wear because they were so hot and uncomfortable and we couldn't see where we were going and we steamed up. It was very, very uncomfortable so I wouldn't be an Ewok again.

Jonathan, Chorley in Lancashire and Mohammed in Ealing
What's it like to be actually inside R2-D2? Is it hot and uncomfortable?

Kenny: Well it is but it's not as bad as an Ewok. It's not easy, they have to take the head off and pick me up and put me in. I have a seat inside, a child's car seat, to sit on and a couple of grab rails inside there which I hold onto which, and then I stand up and I've got a harness which I lift up on my shoulders. It weighs about 80 pounds. And then I can move it from side to side and wobble it around.

Ben, 11, Rochester
How do you actually see when you are inside R2-D2?

Kenny: Well I don't know whether they can see us on the screen. There's two or three bits here, I used to move that from the inside. But I think I used to look through that one, or that one. They're opaque pieces of Perspex. And they make everything look a bit further away than they actually are, which was a bit disconcerting especially if you're at the top of a flight of stairs, it seemed to be as if you're in the middle of nowhere, you know you get a feeling as if you're going to fall down the stairs headfirst.

I got knocked over by a remote controlled robot once in the desert out in Tunisia, because they have radio controls and they didn't work too well in the first place and they went haywire occasionally. This thing hit me in the middle of the desert and I didn't know what it was at first, it just went BANG! and I nearly went over, I keeled over to about nearly forty-five degrees and then went back again onto my feet. And luckily I didn't go over.

Paul, Bradford
Have the breakthroughs in CGI effects in the last few years affected the way you work as R2-D2?

Kenny: Well they don't use me as often as they might've done in the previous films, because they can move the robot better, it's got more movement - you know that's obvious isn't it, they've got more practice with them and the radio signals work properly. There's not a lot you can do with 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.

So has this got implications for the third Star Wars film and have you had the phone call yet to star in that?

Kenny: No - well according to George Lucas R2-D2 is in all of the films, the same as C3P0. Whether it's me actually inside the robot is debatable, you know, I mean hopefully it will be me, we've been associated with them all the way through from 1976, so hopefully I'll be in the last one. And it'll be leading in to Episode IV, so I don't know who's going to be in it but I would imagine they've got to get all the original cast back together again within reason.

Jonathan, 12, Newport Pagnell
What's it like working with all those different actors, all those fantastic names and do you keep in contact with any of them?

Kenny: Not really, I mean Harrison (Ford) is in America, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher are in America, Alec Guiness unfortunately died recently. I see Dave Prowse who was Darth Vader, I see Jeremy Bullock, and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) although now he lives in Texas I don't see so much of him. Everything's big in Texas so that's why he lives there. We kid each other all the time Peter and I, we always get on pretty well with each other. Either you go and behave yourself or I'll burn you down! I'll set fire to you. Just for a joke you know !

How many conventions do you do a year, does it take up a lot of your time?

Kenny:It does, there's a lot of travelling, I've been to Tokyo three times, and I've been to Germany about four or five times, I've been to Spain, I've been to Denmark, been to Ireland. I've just come back from Tokyo and Mexico and Texas, Quebec, Clacton-on-Sea.

Apart from Star Wars what other things have you done in your show business career?

Kenny: Well I started off in variety in the theatres in this country and then in review in the fifties. Then I got into the ice shows at Blackpool and pantomimes every Christmas, with Babes in the Wood to begin with. Then I got into Snow White at Wembley on ice, went to South Africa. Then did ice shows for about 20 years, but then in between the ice shows I teamed up with Jack Purvis and we did a double act called The Minitones.

And then the Star Wars film came about 1976.

Paul, 14, Reading
How did you get the part of R2-D2 and tall are you?

Star's name: My agent said there's a guy in town called Lucas who's looking for a little guy. I was then well known in London at the time, we played all the clubs and pubs and whatever. So I went down to see them in 20th Century Fox studios in Soho Square, walked into the room and they went, yeah, he'll do! Straight away because I was the right size. I'm three foot eight.

Charlotte, London
How did you feel when it was announced that the next three films would go ahead after such a long break?

Kenny: Oh yeah, it was great, I got a phone call - that call to the clan as it were and we all met up at Leavesden up near Watford and George said "hi Kenny how're you doing" and you know it was all like going home from home. And I went out to Tunisia with them for the first film and it was great to be back in the same old robot - a couple of dead scorpions in the seat, full of sand and muck and dirt and goodness knows what else. Same robot all the way through.

R2D2 has always been a really popular character, did you feel that Ja Ja Binks in The Phantom Menace was trying to muscle in on your popularity?

Kenny: Well, not really, I think R2D2 could stand up to any amount of competition because he's smaller than anybody else and everybody likes a little guy. So, I'm lucky in that respect.

Robert, 16
Do you get to keep the R2-D2 costume after filming?

Kenny: Oh, no, no, no, no, no. They go back in the archives, in Lucas's valley, you know back in San Francisco. He's got all the costumes, he's got the Ewoks, all the gloves and all the seats and all the heads.

Skywalker ranch is a beautiful place. It's a great big huge white house in the middle of a valley, and it's all different period apartments. I think the Beatles have been out there and one or two pop stars have been out there making records. You know it's a real farm with real animals out in the fields and stuff like that. And they've go their own engine there - in case all this stuff catches fire because it's priceless.

Mark, 11, Berkshire
You have your own website. Have you ever looked yourself up on the internet and what did you find?

Kenny: No - I've got a computer but I don't know how to work it yet, I can't get through to it.

John, Hackbridge
Are you still surprised that the Star Wars phenomena is so popular?

Kenny: In a way I am surprised - although then again it is a good film, you know I mean they do wear well with time don't they? They still keep coming back every Christmas, and they're still interesting. I mean I can still watch them and enjoy them, so I don't know what the secret is. George has got kind of a Walt Disney approach to the film, whereby the background is as important as the foreground and there's always something going on, all these creatures, weird and wonderful looking creatures doing their own thing in the background. It's technically brilliant, the sound is terrific and the colour and everything - now that there's the latest technology.

What is your all time favourite role, is it a Star Wars character?

Kenny: Well Star Wars has been my best role, money-wise, for my career - but I prefer to do cabaret. I prefer working in hotels and clubs but I did enjoy doing Time Bandits with Terry Gilliam. That was good fun, there were six of us in it and we were in it all the way through the film.

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