YILDIZ SAVASLARI . COM | KENNY "R2-D2" BAKER INTERVIEW:

YS.COM: First of all, we hope that the illness you've had a few months ago was not very serious. How is your health now?

K.B.: Thanks for asking. Yes, I was travelling back from Chicago to the U.K. when complications with my ashma flared up, because of the lack of oxygen my body was getting I fell unconscious and didn’t really know anything else until I came round in the hospital back in Manchester, England. The doctors were fantastic and kept me in bed for two weeks till they had worked out the best medicine for me and now I feel better than ever.

YS.COM: When you were a teenager, you took part in Burton Lester's Midgets. Could you tell us a little bit about those years?


K.B.: Yeah that’s right. I was 17 and a small person trying to make his way in the world. Entertainment and Jazz had always been of interest to me so one summer I went to Blackpool, which is a seaside town in the North of England and I came across Burton Lester’s midgets playing in one of the theatres. Whilst I was standing outside looking at the poster, one of the small ladies who was in the show came up to say hello. She asked me what I was doing for work and if I had any musical talents, I told her a played the mouth organ a little so she asked me to come back stage after the show and meet the rest of the gang. It was as simper as that really, I stayed with Burtons for the next few years and then joined Holiday on Ice, touring Britain and South Africa with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs playing Dopey. Great times!

YS.COM: How did you get involved with the R2-D2 role in Star Wars? What was your first impression about the role?

K.B.: It came about by chance, touring around with the ice show and being out and about in London with the entertainment crowd, you get to know people. A casting girl I knew told me that a young American director was looking for a small person to play a part in his film and that she could get me in to see him. I went along some time later to meet George in the West End of London. I walked into an office and George said ‘perfect’ straight away, I was measured and then left. A short time later they told me more about the part and asked me how I felt about doing it. At the time I’d recently formed a comedy double act with a friend that I met in the Ice Show with me, Jack Purvis, and we were doing really well, even getting spots on TV. So at first I said no to Star Wars because I didn’t want to be in a film were no one saw my face and didn’t have any clue it was me inside. Later George came back to me and said they’d made the robot to my size and explained how R2 was a great character and almost the narrator of the first film, also that they would involve my partner Jack in the film. With this I agreed but still had no idea what I was getting into.

YS.COM: Could you tell us how the shooting takes place when R2 is involved in that scene? What kind of a technique did you use in order to hear the directives of the director from inside the robot? Were you also controlling R2's lights?

K.B.: Well I knew what was happening in the scene and who was speaking but I didn’t have any lines and with my movement so restricted, I couldn’t do that much. All I could do was to turn artoo’s head to look at whoever was talking or if I knew artoo was scared make him jitter about and shake his head, the same if he was excited, making him rock and jump from side to side. But right away George loved what I did as it gave artoo real character and made him more than just a robot, which does come across on screen so I was very happy.

I didn’t control the lights or do the sounds but I had two handles and a small seat inside artoo to make him roll along and rock from side to side. I also had handles in the head to turn that and a rod to move artoos eye, very simple.

YS.COM: How was the reaction of the audience (particularly to R2-D2) when the film was released in 1977?

K.B.: Well as George said artoo does tell the story in the first film and with him being so humble and picked on by C3-P0 the audience warmed to him straight away. The reaction to the film.......well we all know that!

YS.COM: Could you tell us about your experiences with working your team mates George Lucas and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO)?

K.B.: During the first film George was a young and focused director who in some ways didn’t know how to deal with the actors in his tale so he kept himself to himself a lot but he was very calm on set. On set of Phantom George was quite different, with all the success he’d had with the first trilogy and the time gap between, he was very approachable. It was a real family affair on set with my son working with me, Liam Neeson nephew, the second assistant had his son and George had his family on set, everyone had a fun experience.

YS.COM: When you consider all six Star Wars movies, has there been any moments that you can never forget about? What was the worst moment you had?

K.B.: Chatting with Alec Guinness during the first film will always be one of the highlights and as for the worst, there wasn’t any really but the Ewok costumes weren’t too enjoyable, very hot and if you fell over in the forest you couldn’t get up again.

YS.COM: Can you remember any R2-D2 scenes which were cut from the movie?

K.B.: Lots I suppose but one I do remember was from Phantom Menace. It’s the scene were Anakin, Qui-Gon and artoo are getting on the queens ship, you see artoo go over to the edge of the landing platform to look at all the ships flying past. Qui-Gon finishes his conversation and goes to get on the ship, calling Anakin who in turn calls artoo. What they cut from this scene is whilst Qui-Gon is talking artoo stands on tip toes to look over the edge and falls over. Anakin shouts after artoo and then to everyone’s surprise, artoo comes flying back over the edge using his booster rockets.

YS.COM: From the 80's, the cinema industry has evolved immensely and in the prequel trilogy we see R2-D2 doing many tricks such as flying with jetpacks and such. What do you think about the use of computer technology and 3D effects in movies? Were the old methods better or do you support new technologies?

K.B.: I think we all should support the advancement in film technologies and without Georges utter conviction in doing this with the very first Star Wars and beyond, we wouldn’t have the amazing effects we see today. All I would say is that I wish they could find a cost effect way to combine both old and new methods, as with older film making they would build all the sets and ships giving the film more reality in my eyes, as we can be fairly sure when something is CGI’d these days taking away some of the magic and sense of believe in this other world you were watching.

YS.COM: Which did you enjoy working on: the original trilogy or the prequel trilogy (and why)?

K.B.: I personally enjoyed working on the original trilogy as I had a great friendship with Mark and because I was used much more back then. Empire is still my favourite, working with everyone and Irvin Kershner was a fantastic director.

YS.COM: Are you currently working on anything?

K.B.: No just taking it easy and doing conventions here and there in the UK. As soon as I feel 100% fit again, I may think about travelling to conventions abroad. I am working on a book at the moment though, that should be out early next year.

YS.COM: Within two years ahead, we know that a live-action Star Wars series will be released and almost without any doubt, we will eventually see R2-D2 in it. Are there any hints that you can give us about the project? Will you reprise your role?

K.B.: No I know nothing about what’s coming up, but if George or Rick Ask me to come along, I’ll happily be there!

YS.COM: Is there any chance that we could one day see you in Turkey?

K.B.: Anything is possible, if you guys get a convention together let me know.

YS.COM: If you had any chance to look at it, what do you think about our website?

K.B.: I had a quick look, it’s fantastic, keep it going.

YS.COM: Finally, what is your message to the Turkish Star Wars and R2-D2 fans?

K.B.: Bleep – Bop  Bleep Bleep Whistle Whistle
Keep smiling and all the best, may the force be with you!

Kenny Baker

Special thanks to Kevin Baker and Mark Newbold, and also members of YILDIZ SAVASLARI and KUZEY KALESI websites for all their contribution, help and support.

plants