Nov 20 2013, 6:56am CST | by ABC News Radio
Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Days after Star Wars: Episode VII director J.J. Abrams posted a picture of he and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy standing in a production workshop next to none other than R2-D2 himself, StarWars.com confirmed that the little droid is the film's first official cast member.
Even more interesting to fans is that the droid in the picture was built by fans themselves: the two other men in the snap were finally identified as Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples, two members of the worldwide R2-D2 Builders Club.
The group has members all over the world, who painstakingly -- and expensively -- recreate the little blue and white droid which, unlike any other character, has appeared in every Star Wars movie since the 1977 original. The group's members are so good at what they do that Lucasfilm often presses their creations into service at its official events, for commercials and filmed appearances.
On their own time and their own dime, the builders often pay visits to children's hospitals and the like, their droids bringing some Star Wars magic to patients.
Members of the group also show off their handiwork among other droid builders at sci-fi conventions and as part of Star Wars Celebration fan events. Towersey and Steeples met Kennedy last year at Celebration Europe, where she posed for pics of their 'bots, and where Steeples made a fateful "semi-joke," about lending R2 for the upcoming movie.
Instead, the pair were hired to work full-time on Star Wars: Episode VII at Pinewood Studios in England, focusing on building and maintaining Artoo -- and his multiple stand-ins -- as well as other models of the common astromech droids that act as mechanics and navigators in George Lucas' galaxy far, far away./>/>/>/>/>/>/>/>
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Source: ABC News Radio
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