The R2-D2 page on Wookieepedia, an online source for all things "Star Wars," opens with a quote by Panaka, head of the Royal Naboo Security Forces, in regards to C-3PO's trusty counterpart: "An extremely well put-together little droid."
Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy might have had that description in mind as she toured the R2-D2 Builders area at Celebration Europe this past summer in Germany, where she found one particular "extremely well put-together" little R2 unit that really made an impression on her. Such an impression, in fact, that she hired the two builders responsible to create the R2-D2 that will be featured in "Star Wars: Episode VII."
The first behind-the-scenes photo from the new "Star Wars" film features Kennedy, director J.J. Abrams, and R2-D2 himself, confirming that everyone's favorite astromech droid will be appearing in the sequel. Standing behind R2 are two Englishmen, Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples, members of the worldwide R2-D2 Builders Club … and the guys who just got the gig of a lifetime.
Steeples, who finished his first R2-D2 in 2007 after 10 years of collecting parts and researching, describes meeting Kennedy at Celebration Europe, the annual "Star Wars"-themed super-convention. "She posed for pictures with us, looked at all the droids we'd built and was very complimentary," he told Star Wars Blog. "I mentioned that the R2-D2 Builders in the U.K. were available if required, as a semi-joke. When I was contacted to work on the film by [executive producer] Jason McGatlin, it was on her recommendation."
Steeples and Towersey were also hired for their knowledge and expertise when it comes to keeping an astromech droid filled with gears, lights and electronics in top working condition throughout the production of a film, a challenge they're somewhat familiar with after working on "Star Wars"-themed commercials for Currys, a U.K.-based appliances megastore.
"We know the pressures of filming, prepping and being able to assure reliability throughout the shoot," said Towersey. "We have a good knowledge of R2 with a large stock of parts for reference and drawings, plus we know what is involved throughout the whole building process, as well as potential problems we need to avoid."
R2-D2 made his film debut in "Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope" (1977) and has appeared in every "Star Wars" feature film since. He was originally designed and built by Tony Dyson at the White Horse Toy Company using the body of an air conditioning unit from a Convair CV240 airliner and was played by Kenny Baker in the first six "Star Wars" films. R2's resourcefulness, bravery and enthusiasm expressed through beeps, whistles and many heroic acts of derring-do — and his constant affectionate bickering with the fussy C-3PO — have made him one of the most beloved "Star Wars" characters of all time ... and his two new makers are thrilled to be a part of his legacy.
"It's fascinating to see the whole process of filmmaking as 'Star Wars: Episode VII' grows around us," said Towersey, who's currently hard at work at Pinewood Studios. "I feel very privileged to be in the working environment I'm in at the moment. It's something I will never take for granted."
"It's a dream come true," added Steeples. "I hope I can live up to the expectations of the thousands of R2-D2 builders around the world, let alone the millions of 'Star Wars' fans."
Ha. You better, sir.
"Star Wars: Episode VII" will hit theaters on Dec. 18, 2015.
Watch J.J. Abrams talk about R2's unlikely cameos: