Kenny Baker, the man who brought the much-loved R2-D2 droid to life in the Star Wars films, passed away at the age of 81 following a long period of illness.
Baker's death was reported by The Guardian on Saturday, with his niece Abigail Shield telling the publication that the news was expected but sad.
"He had a very long and fulfilled life. He brought lots of happiness to people and we'll be celebrating the fact that he was loved throughout the world. We're all very proud of what he achieved in his lifetime," Shield said.
Baker, standing at 3 feet 8 inches tall, first hopped inside the shell of R2-D2 for 1977's "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" and went on to play R2 in five other Star Wars films. He also played roles in 1980's "The Elephant Man," 1981's "Time Bandits," 1988's "Willow" and 1999's "The King and I."
George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars franchise, touted the headstrong way the Baker faced challenges during filming.
"Kenny Baker was a real gentleman as well as an incredible trooper who always worked under difficult circumstances," Lucas said in a statement on StarWars.com. "A talented vaudevillian who could always make everybody laugh, Kenny was truly the heart and soul of R2-D2 and will be missed by all his fans and everyone who knew him."
Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy also said in the statement that everyone involved in Star Wars was sad to hear the news.
"There is no Star Wars without R2-D2, and Kenny defined who R2-D2 was and is. He will be greatly missed," Kennedy said.
Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars films, tweeted out high praise to Baker Saturday afternoon.
Industrial Light & Magic, the visual effects studio for the Star Wars films, also tweeted out The Guardian's report, noting that "the galaxy weeps for our friend Kenny Baker."
20th Century Fox, a studio involved in the making of the original Star Wars trilogy, posted condolences on Twitter:
Correction, 11:33 a.m. PT: Baker was 81 when he died.
Update, 1:03 p.m. PT: Added tweets from Mark Hamill and Industrial Light & Magic.
Update, Aug. 14, 7:12 a.m. PT: Added George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy statements.