Actor Jimmy Vee is stepping into the R2-D2 suit for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Kenny Baker, the actor to previously portray the lovable robot, passed away in August of 2016.
The Importance of Being R2-D2
R2-D2 is the most important character in the Star Wars saga. In the book The Making of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas reveals that R2-D2 is responsible for relaying the story of the Skywalker family to a Keeper of the Whills. The Whills are life forms deeply connected to The Force and keepers of all the galaxy’s knowledge. That’s a nerd deep cut, but it emphasizes R2’s presence over the entire Star Wars saga. Unfortunately, the man responsible for bringing R2 to life, Kenny Baker passed away on August 13th, 2016 from complications from a lung disease.
Star Wars is a bona fide cultural phenomenon once again. It never truly went anywhere, but its credibility took a hit with the release of the prequels. But when Disney announced they were taking the reigns, fans the world over rejoiced. The icing on that cake was that the original cast would be heading back to the galaxy far, far away. Seeing our icons writ large once again was exciting, to be sure. However, it’s rare that audiences see their beloved childhood heroes show their age in the same roles that made them icons. The bittersweet pill that came along with the wave of nostalgia was that these folks wouldn’t be around forever. Unfortunately, that reality became all too clear in 2016.
Stepping Into R2-D2’s Dome
Jimmy Vee is not new to the role of R2-D2. Some of Star Wars‘ most memorable characters require heavy costuming. And over the course of filming The Force Awakens, the older costumed actors began training body doubles. Jimmy Vee was the main actor in the R2-D2 suit in that film, with Kenny Baker serving as a consultant. However, Baker received the only credit for the film. These sorts of contingencies are smart on the studio’s part but are bittersweet for fans. It is good that a smooth transition can take place in the event of a tragedy, but losing the people responsible for so much joy during our formative years is hard.
Jimmy Vee begins his tenure as the resilient Astromech droid R2-D2 when Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi hits theaters on December 15h, 2017.