R2-D2 is a fictional robot character in the Star Wars franchise created by George Lucas, who appears in the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, the sequel trilogy, and Rogue One. A small astromech droid, R2-D2 is a major character and appears in all Star Wars films to date. Throughout the course of the films, he joins or supports Padmé Amidala, Anakin Skywalker, Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker, and Obi-Wan Kenobi in various points in the saga.
English actor Kenny Baker played R2-D2 in all three original Star Wars films, and received billing credit for the character in the prequel trilogy, where Baker's role was reduced, as R2-D2 was portrayed mainly by radio controlled props and CGI models. In the sequel trilogy, Baker was credited as consultant for The Force Awakens, however Jimmy Vee also co-performed the character in some scenes. Vee later took over the role beginning in The Last Jedi. R2-D2's sounds and vocal effects were created by Ben Burtt. R2-D2 was designed in artwork by Ralph McQuarrie, co-developed by John Stears and built by Tony Dyson.
George Lucas's creation of R2-D2 was influenced by Akira Kurosawa's 1958 feature film The Hidden Fortress (USA release 1962), particularly Tahei and Matashichi, the two comic relief characters that serve as sidekicks to General Makabe. Lucas and artist Ralph McQuarrie also drew inspiration from the robots Huey, Dewey, and Louie from Douglas Trumbull's 1972 film Silent Running.
The name derives from when Lucas was making one of his earlier films, American Graffiti. Sound editor Walter Murch states that he is responsible for the utterance which sparked the name for the droid. Murch asked for Reel 2, Dialog Track 2, in the abbreviated form "R-2-D-2". Lucas, who was in the room and had dozed off while working on the script for Star Wars, momentarily woke when he heard the request and, after asking for clarification, stated that it was a "great name" before going back to writing his script.
R2-D2 stands for Second Generation Robotic Droid Series-2, according to a Star Wars encyclopedia published after the release of the film Star Wars. Tony Dyson, owner of the special effects studio The White Horse Toy Company, was commissioned to fabricate the design, making four units operated by remote control. Two were used by Baker, and two were stunt double models made for the scene where the droid was shot from the swamp onto the shore on Dagobah.
A New Hope
In A New Hope, both R2-D2 and C-3PO are introduced on board the Tantive IV, along with Princess Leia of Alderaan, when they are fired upon by an Imperial Star Destroyer. Leia inserts into R2-D2 an information disc containing the plans for the Death Star battle station, and encodes a distress message on the droid's holographic projector. The droids then escape in a pod that crashes on Tatooine near Obi-Wan Kenobi's desert abode.
R2-D2 and C-3PO are then abducted by Jawas and bought by Owen Lars, step-uncle of Luke Skywalker. While Luke cleans the sand out of R2-D2's gears, he discovers a fragment of Leia's message, and removes the droid's restraining bolt to see more; once free of the bolt, R2 claims to have no knowledge of the message. That night, R2-D2 leaves the farm to seek out Obi-Wan. Soon, by way of fate, Luke is forced to leave Tatooine with Obi-Wan, Han Solo, and Chewbacca onboard the Millennium Falcon to deliver R2-D2 to the Rebel Alliance. On arrival at Alderaan's co-ordinates, they are pulled in by the Death Star's tractor beam and are forced to land, but eventually rescue Princess Leia and eventually minus Kenobi, they escape and deliver the Death Star plans to the Rebel Alliance. R2 later serves as Luke's droid during the attack on the station. R2-D2 is severely damaged during the battle, but is repaired before the ceremony at the end of the film.
The Empire Strikes Back
In The Empire Strikes Back, R2-D2 accompanies Luke to Dagobah, and later to Cloud City, where he helps to rescue and repair a heavily damaged C-3PO and to override city security computers. He also manages to reactivate the Millennium Falcon's hyperdrive, resulting in a last-minute escape from Imperial forces.
Return of the Jedi
In Return of the Jedi, R2-D2 plays a critical role in rescuing Luke, Leia, and Han from Jabba the Hutt. He later joins the Rebel strike team on Endor. He is badly damaged during the fight between the Imperial troops and the Rebels, but is repaired in time for the celebration marking the second Death Star's destruction and the fall of the Empire.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
In Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, set 32 years before Star Wars, R2-D2 is portrayed as belonging to the Naboo defense forces and is one of four astromech droids deployed for repair duty on Queen Padmé Amidala's starship as it attempts to get past the Trade Federation blockade. The sole survivor of the four, R2-D2 becomes part of Qui-Gon Jinn's party on Tatooine and meets C-3PO and Anakin Skywalker. Later still, he serves as the astromech droid for Anakin's starfighter during the Battle of Naboo.
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
In Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, set 10 years after The Phantom Menace, R2-D2 still serves Anakin and Obi-Wan. He accompanies Anakin and Padmé to Naboo, and then to Tatooine when Anakin tries to rescue his mother Shmi. Here, he is reunited with C-3PO, and the two get into various misadventures on Geonosis. He and C-3PO are later witnesses to Anakin and Padmé's secret wedding.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
In Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, R2-D2 helps Anakin and Obi-Wan in their mission to rescue Chancellor Palpatine from Count Dooku's capital ship, the Invisible Hand. He is attacked by battle droids, but defeats them through ingenious tactics. After Anakin falls to the dark side of the Force and becomes Darth Vader, he takes R2-D2 with him when he goes to assassinate the Separatist council, but tells him to stay with the ship. After the Galactic Empire is established at the end of the film, C-3PO's memory is erased to keep the knowledge of the locations of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia a secret from their father. However, R2-D2's memory isn't wiped; as a result, R2-D2 is the only surviving character at the end of Return of the Jedi who knows the entire story of the Skywalker family. Both R2-D2 and C-3PO end up in the possession of Captain Raymus Antilles on board the Corellian corvette Tantive IV.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, set approximately 30 years after Return of the Jedi, R2-D2 is revealed to be kept in storage at the Resistance base on the planet D'Qar, having put himself in a low-power mode after Luke Skywalker's disappearance. He later awakens and reveals Luke's location by combining map data stored in his memory with that of the droid BB-8. He then travels with Rey and Chewbacca to the planet highlighted on the map, where they find Luke in self-imposed exile. In the credits, Kenny Baker was credited as 'R2-D2 consultant,' while Jimmy Vee provided an uncredited portrayal in some scenes.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- R2-D2 appears in the 2008 animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and the subsequent TV series of the same name.
- R2-D2 appears in Star Wars Rebels in the episodes "Droids in Distress" and "Blood Sisters".
- R2-D2 appears in Marvel's Star Wars comic series, which is set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. He also appears briefly in the miniseries Star Wars: Shattered Empire.
With the 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm by The Walt Disney Company, most of the licensed Star Wars novels and comics produced since the originating 1977 film Star Wars were rebranded as Star Wars Legends and declared non-canon to the franchise in April 2014.
- R2-D2 and C-3PO had their own animated series, Star Wars: Droids, set before they came into Luke Skywalker's possession.
- In the various Star Wars novels and comics, the droid duo have played a small but significant role. In the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel The Swarm War, R2-D2 inadvertently helps Luke and Leia come to grips with their heritage when an electronic glitch unearths long-concealed images of Anakin relating his fear of losing Padmé, and of Padmé's death.
- In issue No. 12 of Star Wars: Legacy, R2-D2 is revealed to have survived the resulting 88 years after his last appearance and has been upgraded to the latest technology. In this series, he now serves another member of the Skywalker family – reluctant Jedi Cade Skywalker.
Along with the Star Wars films, R2-D2 makes non-canon cameo appearances in several other films, such as Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, seen flying in debris, Close Encounters of the Third Kind on the underside of the alien ship, Raiders of the Lost Ark, seen on the wall of the room containing the Ark, and in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, seen flying among rubble and debris in the sky. R2-D2 will appear in the upcoming Wreck-It Ralph sequel, Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2.
In the original Star Wars films, there were two R2-D2 models, one that was remote controlled and rolled on three wheeled legs, and another which was worn by English actor Kenny Baker and walked on two legs. Deep Roy (who also doubled Yoda in several scenes), served as Baker's double, in both Episodes V and VI; providing stunts and filling in when Baker was unavailable. The radio controlled R2 was operated by John Stears in A New Hope, Brian Johnson in The Empire Strikes Back and by Kit West in Return of the Jedi.
Kenny Baker, who portrayed R2-D2 in costume, was not involved in the Star Wars Holiday Special. R2 was portrayed entirely by a radio controlled unit, operated by Mick Garris (Lucas' receptionist at the time). In the credits, R2-D2 is credited as playing himself. Garris later went on to operate the radio controlled R2 at various events, including the Oscars.
There were a total of 15 R2-D2s on the set of Attack of the Clones. Eight were radio-controlled; two were worn by Baker; the remainder were stunt models that could be moved by puppet strings or towed by wires. The robotic R2s were prone to failure, particularly while shooting the Tatooine scenes in Tunisia.
Radio controlled units were extensively utilised for the Prequel trilogy, due to advances in technology, though Baker was still used in some scenes. R2-D2 had three principal operators: Don Bies, Jolyon Bambridge and Grant Imahara.
The sound effects for R2-D2's "voice" were created by sound designer Ben Burtt, using an ARP 2600 analog synthesizer, as well as his own vocalizations processed through other effects. Original props of R2-D2 and C-3PO are used as Audio-Animatronics in the queue area of Disneyland's Star Tours–The Adventures Continue attraction.
Although Kenny Baker is credited, Anthony Daniels (who portrays C-3PO) has stated that Baker did not film any scenes in Revenge of the Sith. Baker himself has said he probably only appears in footage caught while shooting the previous two movies.
For The Force Awakens, producer Kathleen Kennedy hired two fans, Lee Towarsey and Oliver Steeples, to build new R2-D2 robots for the film, after being impressed by their working replicas that were brought to Star Wars Celebration Europe in 2013.