The beloved and culturally significant sci-fi franchise, Star Wars, transcends cinema in a way few films do. The sad news this weekend of the death of Kenny Baker — who portrayed the lovable droid R2-D2 — caused millions to reflect and appreciate the impact of his now immortalized performance.
Unfortunately, since the release of Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977, a number of people responsible for helping bring Lucas's magic to the big screen have passed away. While their memories will live on in one of cinema's finest ever creations, we take a look back in memorandum below:
Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
Lucas's introduction to his imagined universe bustling with intergalactic rebellions, vibrant planets and intriguing characters was released almost 40 years ago. Alec Guinness is perhaps the most notable death in the years gone by, having portrayed Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original trilogy. He died in 2000, aged 86.
A number of other actors who had minor roles in the movie have also passed away. Graham Ashley died two years after the film's release — he played Alliance pilot Gold Five. Furthermore, this year the in-depth quest to find the identity of the actor who played BoShek — the smuggler who referred Obi-Wan to Han Solo — was solved after four decades. The investigation sadly discovered that actor Frances Alfred Basil Tomlin had passed away 11 years ago.
Other actors who have since passed away are:
- Jeremy Sinden (Dex Tiree)
- Jack Purvis (Chief Jawa)
- Barry Gnome (Kabe)
- Malcolm Tierney (Shann Childsen)
Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Three years after A New Hope's success, Star Wars returned with The Empire Strikes Back. Behind the camera, the man at the helm of the film, director Ivan Kershner, died back in 2010.
A number of those who starred in the film have also since passed on. Eddie Byrne, who played Alliance General Vanden Willard, died a year after the film was released. The man responsible for bringing the carnivorous Wampa to life, Des Webb, died in 2002. Christopher Malcolm, who played the Rogue Two — the pilot who discovered Han Solo and Luke Skywalker on Hoth — died in 2014. Bob Anderson, the swordsman who donned Darth Vader's suit for fight scenes, passed away in 2012.
Other actors who have since passed away include:
- John Hollis (Lobot)
- Michael Sheard (Admiral Kendal Ozze)
- Bruce Boa (General Rieekan)
- Morris Bush (Dengar)
Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
Return of the Jedi was the last film in the original trilogy, set one year after the events of The Empire Strikes Back. Tragically, four years after the film's release director Richard Marquand died of a heart attack, aged just 49-years-old.
In the original version, Sebastian Shaw played the unmasked Anakin Skywalker. Replacing an image of Shaw with a superimposed Hayden Christensen in a scene featuring Anakin's ghost is one of the biggest criticisms Lucas has faced for alterations to the original trilogy. Shaw sadly died in 1994.
Furthermore, Claire Davenport — who played Yarna d'al' Gargan, a slave of Jabba the Hutt held captive in Tatooine — died in 2002.
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Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
Often regarded as the poorest Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace was a return to the franchise after a 16 year hiatus.
The untimely death of Khan Bonfils made the news last year after he tragically died during rehearsals for a stage play, Inferno. He was only 42-years-old. Bonfils played the role of Saesee Tiin, a member of the Jedi Order and was one of 12 members of the Jedi Council.
Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)
The second of the sequels picks up 10 years after The Phantom Menace, where a young Anakin Skywalker is given the task of protecting Padmé Amidala. The Sith Lord Count Dooku was a major player in the events that unfold across this film and Revenge of the Sith (2005).
Dooku was played by the legendary actor Christopher Lee. He was also known for his role as Count Dracula, as well as numerous appearances. Unfortunately, Lee died last year, aged 93.
Acting on the other side of the force, Alethea McGrath — who played Jocasta Nu — died earlier this year aged 96.