Anthony Daniels fully embraces his role as C-3PO. He not only played the character in all six feature films to date — and in J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Episode VII — but also in animated series ranging from Droids to Star Wars Rebels, and in assorted live-action television appearances. Entertainment Weekly writer James Hibberd spoke at length the actor about his nearly four-decade history with Threepio, covering everything from his initial disinterest in the part to his initial phone call with Abrams about reprising the role.
On Auditioning For the Part: “I wasn’t interested in the slightest. In fact, I was being polite by going to meet George Lucas. Can you imagine that? I was polite in the room, but it wasn’t a very interesting conversation because he was collapsing from having met pretty much every actor in England. I wandered in, and I think it was a refreshing change for him because I didn’t do what so many people apparently did — this stiff robotic dance. He had lots of people coming in being a robot, which to me is slightly embarrassing. What do you say to somebody who comes in like that? Apparently he would say, ‘No, no, no!’ I was utterly relaxed because I didn’t want the job anyway. I only spoke about this picture out of something to talk about. But as I approached Ralph McQuarrie’s painting, I was very moved by [Threepio’s] face. It almost was inviting to come through the frame of the painting and be with him, or it, on this lonely moonscape. I’d seen the Mona Lisa in Paris, this world famous woman looking straight at you. But her eyes say nothing. Whereas Ralph McQuarrie, who had worked Boeing Aircraft as an engineer, he created a look that leads us to talking today. And it’s only come to me recently, on the film set, that Threepio’s face is as asymmetric as a human’s face. It’s not actually a machine-made metrical object. It is as quirky and lopsided as any human’s face. I never realized that! Which is why that face has such humanity.”
On Cheesy Dialogue: “[Mark Hamill] was particularly good at saying daft lines. But because he said them, and I said them, with honesty, integrity and professional delivery, [the audience] believed them. You accept this weird dialogue, and George had the nerve to write it.”
On the Call From Abrams: “I will tell you that when [director] J.J. Abrams rang me to ask about filming Episode VII, one of the first things he said after he told me how wonderful I was — and that didn’t take long — but he then said, ‘Would you be interested in being in the film just doing the voice?’ I said, ‘No,’ and he said, ‘Right!’ He knew I’d say that. There’s no way I would just do the voice.I also said that it can’t be the same suit. I will tell you that the team then got together and built a new suit. They made an entirely new look-a-like with changes that you will never notice [on screen] that made my life a lot easier. I can get it on and off very quickly.”
On CGI C-3PO: “[During the prequels] the only time [Threepio has] been CG was when it was very dangerous [to act in the scene in a suit] — and it wasn’t very good. In fact, I’m going to say it was awful. One of the difficulties is with a character that you know and love so well is that, as a member of the audience, you go, ‘Oh no, that’s not right. No, he doesn’t move like that.’ With me [in the suit], he’s always going to move the same way and have the same reactions, timing, and so on. With CG, you’re working with some brilliant person on the keyboard who is trying to pretend to be me. In a cartoon series like Rebels, you accept it because it’s not trying to pretend to be reality. It’s an extension, it’s an exaggeration. On that basis, it’s utterly acceptable — providing the characterization is correct.”
On the Original Trilogy: “The first film was incredible success. Then the the second was a phenomena too. You come to the third film [pause] that had Ewoks in it. Anyway! Moving on!”
On Rebels Capturing the Feel of the Original Films: “It’s very elusive and I’ll tell you: It’s where we’re going now with Episode VII. We’re all back. And it’s great, actually, that Rebels is set before Episode IV because that film is quintessential basic, ‘This is Star Wars.’ Rebels is is an old fashion link to the old fashion film, which which we all loved. And you will love Episode VII — I have electrodes strapped to my head to zap me if I say anything more about it.”
Star Wars Rebels premieres Oct. 13 on the Disney Channel. Star Wars: Episode VII arrives Dec. 18, 2015.
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