The British actor who played the popular Star Wars character R2-D2 in the films has died at the age of 83. Kenny Baker became famous in 1977 when he first played the robot character with a height of 3ft 8inches.

Following his initial appearance in Star Wars, Baker went on to play R2-D2's character in the Empire Strikes Back, as well as the Return of the Jedi. He also appeared in the three Star Wars prequels between 1999 and 2005, alongside a number of other famous movies in the 1980s, such as The Goonies, Time Bandits and Flash Gordon.

Baker's niece, Abigail Shield, told the Guardian: "It was expected, but it's sad nonetheless. He has 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."

Baker and Shield's father were brothers and grow up together in Birmingham. Shield explained that, as a child, Baker was told he wouldn't survive past puberty due to being "a little person in those times" when they didn't have a high life expectancy.

Shield said that one of Baker's nephews had been looking after him over the last few years as his health deteriorated. The Star Wars actor had problems with his lungs and was often in a wheelchair towards the end of his life and his nephew found him dead on 13 August morning.

Baker met his wife, Eileen, after appearing on the Michael Parkinson TV chat show. She wrote into the producers saying she was also a little person and wanted to meet Baker, and Shield said that they got married shortly after, however, she died 20 years ago from epilepsy.

"He was very poorly for a long time," Shield said. "He was asked to go out to LA for the new Star Wars premiere but he was told he was too ill to travel. Luckily he did manage to meet George Lucas again when he came to Manchester."

Shortly after the news of his death emerged, many began taking to social media to pay tribute to the Star Wars legend. Baker's name quickly began trending on Twitter in the United Kingdom.