Anthony Daniels, ‘Star Wars’ C-3PO, talks ‘The Force Awakens’

Anthony Daniels attends the premiere of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Anthony Daniels has been involved with Star Wars since the beginning, appearing in every movie as the lovable (yet sometimes hateable) droid C-3PO. Through every hiatus between films, Daniels maintains the character and does all the voicework for C-3PO on multiple TV programs, including Droid Tales, Star Wars Rebels, Lego Star Wars and many, many others. He is intrinsically tied to his character, and it shows.

He stands like C-3PO, arms bent and slightly back, and when he talks in his “normal” voice you can hear the droid speaking to you. Global News sat down with Daniels to hear his thoughts about The Force Awakens, the latest film in the Star Wars franchise, and to find out how it feels to be back on-set after a 10-year absence. Since he and C-3PO are a unit, he said it feels like he’s never left.

C-3PO and R2-D2 on set for ‘Star Wars.’. Disney/Lucasfilm

Global News: How has it been working on this film amid so much secrecy?
Anthony Daniels: It’s actually become second-nature. We all have huge respect for the whole Star Wars story. We have huge respect for George Lucas and J.J. and huge respect for the fans. Why would we want to spoil something for someone?

What’s it like to be back on-set for a Star Wars movie?
There may have been gaps over 40 years, but basically it’s been a steady line for me. It includes all of the movies, various TV shows… I often end up being the frontman for Star Wars/Disney/Lucasfilm. I have the ability to present like 3PO on a good day. [Laughs] 3PO has rarely left my side, because I do all the cartoon series. I have the best of both worlds: being able to be 3PO without the costume, but then having the thrill of walking out on the first day of filming, all dressed up. The only difference being on-set was I’ve been doing a lot of Lego Star Wars, and The Force Awakens is not as much a “fun” thing. It’s quite a chapter you’re going to see.
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They 3D-printed my costume this time, because if it doesn’t quite work, you can go off and create another one fairly quickly. But when J.J. came in when I was trying various parts on, it was just like click click click! He was taking selfies with me. That continued all the way through, his enthusiasm.

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Has the costume gotten any more comfortable for you over the years?
Oh, it’s not the greatest thing, but they’ve made changes, particularly in terms of how pieces fit together. I used to have a microphone attached to my head and a transmitter attached to my backside — yes, I was speaking to you from my bum all through the movies — but now I have a miniaturized microphone and transmitter in the space in between my eyes. I love that, it’s absolutely magic. The invisible technology has moved forward and it doesn’t intrude as much.

The suit, though, has never been great, but that’s part of the job. I’m not the only one; there are some wonderful creatures of all sorts in The Force Awakens. I’d look at these guys, spending a whole day in the desert. Because they’re human beings inside, you’ll feel that visceral quality.

Not many people get to sit with a character for so long. Has C-3PO evolved over time?
C-3PO can’t really evolve, because he’s a machine. That television itself isn’t going to evolve, but what you see on it will. The content changes. 3PO’s content changes due to circumstances. He’s not proactive as a character, things have to happen to him. He will always be the machine.

3PO doesn’t remember a lot of stuff. He does not know, for instance, that Darth Vader is his daddy. He’s more reflective in every sense of the word, and is reactive to what happens to him.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer
What do you think makes C-3PO and R2-D2 so timeless and so loved?
They’re broad characters, to be honest. If I gave that performance as a human being, I’m not sure if you’d like him as much. One of the clever things about R2 is his “voice.” Ben Burtt [sound designer for Star Wars] came up with this clever idea for R2’s soundtrack. He whistled, and then he got his baby to gurgle. He mixed all those sounds with the synchronized sounds, and what the audience gets, and recognizes, is the human element. In a way, R2 is almost anthropomorphized and it draws you in.
With 3PO, he is incredibly vulnerable. From very early on, we learn that he was programmed for protocol and etiquette. Totally useless. You see him in the desert stumbling about; he’s searching for that plate of canapes or cocktails, but he’s out in the desert all manky and broken. He’s always in the wrong place at the wrong time, and nobody cares about him. They’re always telling him to shut up or asking to shut him down. He’s always trashed, like many of us in our lives, trashed by the government, taxes, the state — no one cares about us, either. George planned that, this couple of droids, to be the archetypal ordinary man on the street. There is that recognition that you share their lot in life. [In C-3PO’s voice:] We were made to suffer, it’s our lot in life.
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It’s been a while since you worked with Harrison Ford — was it like a reunion of sorts?
It’s like Harrison never stopped. It’s like he left the set of Return of the Jedi and came right back. He made me laugh so much. I think you’ll be delighted by him. He broke his ankle on set, and then months later you’d never know that anything happened to him.

What was it like working on a Star Wars film without George Lucas at the helm?
We had other directors before, so that wasn’t new, and George is kind of this overarching presence. He’s the hands of the master, if you like. I think Mark Hamill said, “This is the most wonderful gift.” It feels like a gift to be able to do this again. This was huge fun to make, and I feel like that fun is going to come out on the screen.

‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ opens in theatres on Dec. 18.


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