Star Wars actor Anthony Daniels: C-3PO is an icon. He will out-survive all of us
Anthony Daniels has been playing Star Wars droid C-3PO for more than 40 years. He tells Laura Harding he isn't planning on stopping any time soon
IS ANTHONY Daniels the biggest movie star you would not recognise if you passed him in the street?
The director JJ Abrams certainly thinks so and said as much in the foreword to Daniels's recent book I Am C-3PO: The Inside Story.
The British actor has played the smart-talking gold droid since 1977, making him the only person to have appeared in every Stars Wars film, as well as many of its spin-offs, TV shows and video games.
Now this includes the latest outing in the Lego Star Wars Holiday Special, which reunites Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose and the droids for a joyous feast on Life Day – a holiday first introduced in the ill-fated 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special.
“One of the most amusing chapters [in the book] refers to the original holiday special in 1978, which was remarkable in so many ways,” says Daniels over Zoom from his home in London.
“First of all, filming it on the set in LA was a dismal, dismal experience. And, bear in mind, this is meant to be the happiest day in the life of the Wookies.
“There we were, meant to be celebrating this event and there's Mark [Hamill] and Carrie [Fisher] and Harrison [Ford] and me in these very dark, basically black drapes. It was like a funeral. It was dreadful.
“And then you watched it and you thought: ‘I didn't realise it was as dreadful as that'. Well, it was.
“So when the producers came to me and said, ‘We're going to make a holiday special', I laughed.
“But, as you will find out, it's very, very different and it's charming and it's Lego that I adore.
“And 3PO has seen all sorts of things over the years. He's been on the Donny & Marie Osmond Show and the Muppet Show. And he's used to crazy experiences that bring out certain qualities in him. And so long may that go on.”
Daniels is 74 now and is proud of his long association not only with the Star Wars franchise but also with the etiquette-loving droid himself.
“C-3PO is iconic,” he says proudly. “And on set, walking to the scenes with the crew, I would regularly say: ‘Move out of the way, icon coming through!'
“3PO is an icon forever and ever. He will out-survive me. He will out-survive all of us. Now with the electronic media, these images – as much as the robot Eva in Metropolis (the 1927 film by Fritz Lang) – exist forever. So will Star Wars and so will 3PO. And I'm very proud about that because I respect him a great deal.
“The one thing I really do like that I share with him is his sense of loyalty. I think loyalty in humans, loyalty to each other, is extremely important.
“And one of the lovely things in the movies is that 3PO shows great loyalty even to dreadful human beings like Han Solo. Nevertheless, he would want him to be OK. But loyalty [also] to the princess, to Luke Skywalker and, of course, to [fellow droid] R2-D2.”
As the only cast member to have appeared in all the films, he feels particularly loyal to George Lucas's original vision and the roots of his classic films.
“I like being employed, I like working. But one reason it's important that I feel I stay with 3PO is because sometimes writers or producers, whatever, get a bit distant from the basic truths, if you like, of the original film.
“You meet C-3PO and he's very important in the minds of many, many people because he's the first voice in that first film. And he has a kind of quality that stayed with people and, therefore, you have to stay with that quality, whatever the new iteration is, whether it's a film or an animation or it's a Lego film.
“And I can do that, not without being crazily controlling about it, but I can say, ‘That's not how he would put things,' or ‘That's not how he would behave in character,' because it's very important he stays in character.
“And sensible and clever and intelligent producers and writers and directors listen to me. Others, I don't work with them!”
But Daniels's journey through the galaxy far, far away has not always been an easy one.
“When I decided to write the book, I decided it should be as honest as possible, without hurting people, without making stupid, fantastic claims, whatever. Just the way it was.
“And I thought it was important, certainly to me, to say that it was very, very difficult at the beginning – when Lucasfilm tried to pretend that I had nothing to do with the film; that I wasn't that character; that I wasn't the puppeteer.
“Oh right, I had got a little credit on the roll up at the end. That was a very, very hurtful experience.”
He pauses for a moment.
“It's interesting that I had never actually put together that 3PO gets pushed around, dumped on, ignored, bullied, through all of these stories.
“But what I do do in the book is to come towards the end and say that I realised that for several years I'd harboured resentment. And why wouldn't I? There were very serious miscalculations about how to treat a person.
“That changed over the years but those resentments did stay very front of the line.
“Memories of the original holiday special, they stayed somewhere in the back of my mind. And certainly writing about them brought them out again.
“But then I move on to say that time changed, that I changed, that I realised that things had moved on. [I realised] that those hurts would always stay there as hurts but they weren't going to hurt anymore.”
And Daniels is sure that the future is still bright for the beloved droid.
“I think his story is far from over. I am delighted to say that the new Star Wars Holiday Special is the latest iteration, not the last.
“3PO is too important a character to disappear and I don't believe fans will allow him to disappear. Like the robot in Fritz Lang's Metropolis and the wonderful Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, those characters stay alive forever and ever and ever.”
:: The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special is available on Disney+.