Actor Jimmy Vee, best known for his roles in the Harry Potter franchise and Doctor Who, replaced the recently deceased Kenny Baker as the operator inside R2-D2.
The inside operator of R2-D2 is not an easy role to fill. Kenny Baker built up nearly thirty years of experience driving the droid from within its metal confines. His hard work made R2 the iconic character we know today.
But then, Baker didn’t appear on production shoots for The Last Jedi; Jimmy Vee was on set instead. Then, in 2016, Baker passed away. Before and after the 81-year-old actor’s death, Lucasfilm clearly needed someone else besides Baker to go under the dome.
Lucasfilm found that someone else in Vee, whom Making Star Wars first speculated had replaced Baker in 2015. The 57-year-old actor played various minor characters in the new Doctor Who series, as well as a goblin in Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone. Now, according to the actors’ agency Oh So Small‘s official announcement earlier today, Vee continued his circuit of geek franchises by taking on the role of R2-D2 in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Vee made the following statement on Oh So Small’s blog:
"“It’s been an absolute pleasure to have worked alongside the legendary Kenny Baker. Kenny was a fantastic actor and taught me all the ‘tricks’ on how he brought R2-D2 to life which I will continue to portray in his honour. I’m so excited to be a part of the Star Wars universe and can’t wait for everyone to see what we’ve been working so hard on for the last year.”"
Baker had already relinquished control of R2 before he died in August 2016. For The Force Awakens, Lucasfilm controlled R2 using remotes rather than through a person on the inside. For The Last Jedi, however, director Rian Johnson decided to go old school for his Star Wars film. Which is smart, given R2 probably has a larger role in Episode VIII than he did in Episode VII; an actor piloting him from the inside allows for more control and complex movements.
Image Credit: Lucasfilm (GIF via photo library David Harris)
Going back to using a real actor instead of relying on remote control is smart given R2 probably has a larger role in Episode VIII than he did in Episode VII. Recall that the droid only appeared on-screen in The Force Awakens for about a minute, if even that. Moreover, he didn’t move hardly at all. But now is awake and found his old master, Luke Skywalker, he has no excuse to laze around.
We extend our heartiest congratulations and thanks to Jimmy Vee for joining the Star Wars universe and helping bring an iconic character to life in The Last Jedi.
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Star Wars: The Last Jedi premieres in theaters on December 15th, 2017.