If you passed him on the street, is Anthony Daniels the biggest movie star that you would not recognize?
In the foreword to Daniels’ new book, I Am C-3PO: The Inside Story, Director JJ Abrams definitely thinks so, and said so.
Since 1977, the British actor has played the smart-talking golden droid, making him the only person to appear in every movie of “Stars Wars” as well as many of its spin-offs, television shows and video games.
This now includes the latest appearance in the Lego Star Wars Holiday Special, which brings together Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose and the Droids for a happy Day of Life celebration, a holiday first featured in the ill-fated Star Wars Holiday Special of 1978.
“One of the most fun chapters (in the book) relates to the original 1978 holiday special, which was remarkable in many ways,” Daniels says about Zoom from his London home.
Shooting on set in L.A. was a grim, bleak experience, first of all. And you have to note that this was supposed to be the happiest day in the lives of the Wookies.
We were there, supposed to be celebrating this thing, and in these very dark, practically black curtains are Mark (Hamill) and Carrie (Fisher) and Harrison (Ford) and I. Like a funeral, it was. It has been bad.
“And then you must have looked at it and said, ‘I didn’t know that it was so bad.’ Yeah, it was.
“I chuckled when the producers came to me and said, ‘We’re doing a special holiday,’
But it’s very, very different, as you’ll find out, and it’s charming, and it’s a Lego that I love.
“And over the years, 3PO has seen all sorts of things. He was at the Donny & Marie Osmond and Muppet shows. And he’s used to insane encounters that bring out of him those qualities. And long may that go on.
Now 74, not only with the Star Wars franchise, but also with the Knigge-loving droid himself, Daniels is proud of his long association.
C-3PO is iconic,” he says proudly. “So on set, I will frequently say, ‘Get out of the way, the icon is coming through!’ when I go to scenes with the crew. ‘
3PO is an icon forever and ever. He’s going to outlive me. Each of us will outlive him. Today, with electronic media, these pictures remain forever, much like the robot Eva in Metropolis (1927 film by Fritz Lang). That’s how Star Wars becomes, and that’s how 3PO becomes. And because I love him so much, I’m very proud of that.
His sense of loyalty is the one thing that I really like and share with him. I think it is incredibly necessary to be loyal to people, to be loyal to each other.
“And one of the nice things about the movies is that 3PO shows great loyalty, even to terrible people like Han Solo. Still, he would want things to go well for him. But there’s loyalty (also) to the princess, to Luke Skywalker and, of course, to (fellow droid) R2-D2.”
He feels a special devotion to George Lucas’ initial vision and the origins of his classic films, as the only cast member to have acted in all the films.
I like to be busy, I like to work. But one reason it’s important that I stay with 3PO is that writers or producers, whoever, often wander a little from the original film’s ground realities, if you will.
You meet C-3PO, and in many, many people’s minds, he’s really relevant because he’s the first voice in the first movie. And he has a kind of consistency that has stuck with people, because no matter what the next version is, whether it’s a movie or an animation or a Lego movie, you have to keep the quality.
“And I can do that, not without being insanely controlling, but I can say, ‘This is not how he would express things’ or ‘This is not how he would behave in character,’ because it’s very important that he stays in character,” he said.
“And sensible and smart and intelligent producers and writers and directors listen to me. I don’t work with anyone else!”
But the journey of Daniels through the galaxy far, far away wasn’t always easy.
I knew I wanted it to be as honest as possible when I decided to write the novel, without harming people, without making silly, brilliant statements, whatever. It was just the way it was.
And I thought it was necessary, in any case, for me to say that at the beginning it was very, very difficult – when Lucasfilm was trying to pretend that I had nothing to do with the movie; that I wasn’t that character; that I wasn’t the marionette.
“Oh yeah, I ended up getting a little credit on the part. That was a very, very hurtful experience.”
For a moment, he pauses in