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By Eli Panken

Kenny Baker, who played the beloved droid R2-D2 in the "Star Wars" films, died Saturday after battling a long illness, according to reports. He was 81.

Baker's nephew, Drew Myserscough, said he found him dead Saturday at his home in Preston in northwest England.

The 3-foot-8 British actor began his showbiz career at age 16. He got his big break in 1977 when he first climbed inside the iconic robot character for “Episode IV — A New Hope.”

R2-D2 attends the screening of "Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey" at 2016 SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas.Mike Windle / Getty Images for SXSW

Baker reprised his role as R2-D2 in episodes V and VI, as well as the three "Star Wars" prequel movies — a franchise that employed his talents through 2005's "Episode III — Revenge of the Sith."

R2-D2 and his lanky friend C-3PO became two of the series' most beloved characters.

Baker also had parts in other hit movies throughout the 1980s and 90s, including "The Goonies," "Flash Gordon" and "Time Bandits." He served as a R2-D2 "consultant" for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which was released in 2015.

Baker’s niece, Abigail Shield, told The Guardian the actor had problems with his lungs and was often in a wheelchair.

“It was expected, but it’s sad nonetheless,” she said of his death. “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 well loved throughout the world. We’re all very proud of what he achieved in his lifetime.”

Kenny Baker poses with Stormtroopers at the European premiere of the film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in London in 2015.Joel Ryan / Joel Ryan/Invision/AP

Actor Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker alongside Baker in all six "Star Wars" films, tweeted about his co-star’s death, and others remembered him for being the "heart and soul" of the series:

The Associated Press contributed.