Why Star Wars' Most Famous Droids Couldn't Get Along On Set

I loved Laurel and Hardy movies when I was a little kid, and I got rather upset when I found out that they were both married and lived in separate houses. I just assumed they must really live together and share a bed in real life. I had a similar feeling of disappointment not so long ago as a grown up when I found out that the relationship between Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker, AKA C-3PO and R2-D2, was strained to say the least. Like so many other people, "Star Wars" formed a big part of my childhood, and I took it for granted they would be a double act in the real world, too.

Although only one of the famous droids is humanoid, they're a classic fat guy/skinny guy comedy duo to rank amongst the best of them. Like Abbott and Costello (who also had an off-screen beef), Jay and Silent Bob, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, you just can't really imagine one without the other. C-3PO and R2-D2 are a big part of what I love about the "Star Wars" films, especially the original trilogy. They're our guides into that galaxy as they dodge blaster fire, meet a princess, jump ship in an escape pod, and bicker their way across the deserts of Tatooine and beyond. Like all comedy duos, it is their contrasting personalities that make them shine; C-3PO the fussy, complaining, easily offended robo-butler matched with R2-D2's cheerful, forthright, brave little tin can with plenty of can-do spirit.

Daniels and Baker do such a great job of bringing their characters to life, and the onscreen chemistry of the droids is so great that I always thought that the actors must get along famously off set too. That's where I was wrong...

How Daniels and Baker Became the Droids

Prior to "A New Hope," Kenny Baker only had one film credit to his name, playing an uncredited dwarf in "Circus of Horrors." He worked in vaudeville, circus, and cabaret, forming a comedy duo with fellow little person Jack Purvis, who also played roles in the original "Star Wars" trilogy (Chief Jawa, Chief Ugnaught, and Teebo the Ewok respectively). Standing just 3ft 8in, George Lucas thought Baker was perfect for R2-D2, as he was small enough to fit inside the costume while also strong enough to move it. Baker brought so much humanity to the droid, although his performance was limited to inputs like turning the droid's turret-like head and rocking him side to side. A remote controlled version of R2 was used for the longer shots when he's trundling around.

Meanwhile, Anthony Daniels started out studying law before dropping out to pursue a career in acting. He moved through amateur dramatics to the BBC Radio Drama Company, which led to the National Theater in London. That's where he attracted the attention of George Lucas, but he was reluctant to even meet the director at first (via AnthonyDaniels.com):

Given the difficulties of the proposed costume, Lucas was interested in Anthony's acting and mime skills. Anthony on the other hand wasn't interested at all. Having once demanded his money back on seeing "2001 – A Space Odyssey," he had never been attracted by the world of sci-fi. He refused the interview, not wishing to waste Lucas's time. Or indeed his own.

Coerced by his agent, Anthony did meet the director. But it was a concept painting of the character that actually gained his interest. He found the script incomprehensible but liked the golden droid and so was thrilled to be given the role.

Kenny Baker on Anthony Daniels

The mutual dislike between the two actors dates back at least as far as 2005, when Kenny Baker went public with his anger towards his co-star in an interview (via Hollywood.com):

"Anthony doesn't mix at all — he keeps himself to himself. He never wants to have a drink with any of us. Once, when I said hello to him, he just turned his back on me and said, 'Can't you see I'm having a conversation?' I was blazing with rage. It was the rudest thing anyone had ever done to me. I was furious. It was unbelievable."

That personal slight seemed to really stick with Baker, and he was very vocal about his differences with Daniels in interviews until his death in 2016. In 2009, Baker told Metro:

"If he just calmed down and socialized with everyone, we could make a fortune touring around making personal appearances. I've asked him four times now, but the last time, he looked down his nose at me like I was a piece of s**t. He said: 'I don't do many of these conventions – go away little man.' He really degraded me and made me feel small – for want of a better expression."

In a later interview, Baker sought to downplay the "feud" while also claiming that he wasn't the only person who didn't get on with Daniels (via Josh Gill):

"The so-called feud has been blown out of all proportion, and I absolutely detested the Justin Lee Collins 'Bring Back Star Wars' program where it was clear that Collins was out to sensationalize the situation. Daniels has no time for any of the other actors, not just me, and none of them have a good word to say about him."

While there are many anecdotes from fans online about Daniels being rather difficult, there is very little to suggest his other co-stars had any issues with him.

Anthony Daniels on Kenny Baker

For his side of the story, Daniels has been no less dismissive of Baker. In an interview with The Mirror, he said:

"I never saw him... I mean, R2-D2 doesn't even speak. He might as well be a bucket."

This comment is key to understanding Daniels' attitude towards his co-star. Daniels considers his role as proper acting, perhaps overstating his case in some instances. He also endured quite some discomfort wearing C-3PO's tight-fitting costume (via GQ) while Baker had it relatively easy, able to hop out of the R2 unit between takes. The film is edited to make it look like the pair are inseparable, but the reality for the actors on set was much different.

Talking to Justin Lee Collins on the TV Show "Bring Back Star Wars," Daniels discussed his experiences with Baker: 

"I remember one day, [Kenny] was in the costume, and I said to him, 'When I say the line, can you turn the head to look at me?' But he hadn't read the script... we have absolutely no relationship, we have nothing in common, we're... I think... really quite different people."

It is interesting to watch Daniels' reactions in that interview. It's like he is genuinely baffled about why people keep asking him questions about Baker and R2-D2. When Baker passed away in 2016, Daniels drew flak for the fan community for his tweeted condolence (via Dork Side of the Force):

"Sad to hear of Kenny's passing.1 of the truly original cast, so famed for his iconic role as R2. He'll always be remembered by so many fans."

Thankfully, knowledge of the pair's animosity does nothing to affect the joy of watching C-3PO and R2-D2 bounce off each other in the films. That's the magic of movies, I guess.