Anthony Daniels is now one of the most recognized people in the world, playing one of the pivotal roles in the Star Wars film series – that of the beloved droid C-3PO. He is coming to CayFilm 2016.
Have you ever visited the Cayman Islands before?
No. In fact, I had to Google to see where they are. I didn’t get on with my geography teacher at school, so never learned very much about anywhere. Since my first visit to the USA in 1976 (to dub my voice back onto the finished movie) I’ve travelled all over the world and experienced jetlag in many languages. So finally I have learned a lot about geography. Now I have to start on history, and then …
When you started in Star Wars, did you think the film would be as big as it was?
No. Star Wars was a job. I’d only been acting a couple of years on stage and TV and this would be my first film experience. So it was all very new and I had nothing to compare it with.
Though I liked the character of Threepio as I read it, the weirdest thing was the script, which was unlike anything I’d done before. But Carrie [Fisher] and Mark [Hamill] and Harrison [Ford] and I said the lines with belief and sincerity (though I had immense difficulty remembering my first techno script since I had no concept of what “moisture vaporators” and “binary load-lifters” were) and everyone was completely professional.
But I wasn’t alone in wondering whether this funny little project would ever make it to the screen. I think George Lucas was almost alone in having complete faith in his ideas. He’d struggled to get a backer and he struggled to finish his work, in spite of all sorts of hiccups. It’s an object lesson in what you can do if you don’t give up. The world took one look at Star Wars and has been looking at it ever since. We were wrong and thankfully George was right, all the way to the top … and beyond.
There had always been the plan to make nine films in total, but even many of the fans didn’t think they’d actually all be made. What does it feel like to now be working on the last two of this incredible series?
Nine was often mentioned after the huge success of the first episode. It remained a possibility that might or might not happen. I certainly appreciated George’s comments that the droids would be the linking thread through the whole saga. Of course, I’m infamous for having turned down a chance to meet George in the first place (low budget sci-fi role as a robot didn’t seem like a career move at the time), so it’s ironic that I find myself the only actor to work on all eight episodes, with the ninth already planned. I’m gratified and amused to have this curious honor.
One could say you’ve dedicated you acting life to being C-3PO. Have you enjoyed the ride?
One of the great joys in being connected to the Star Wars galaxy is having Threepio as a friend. I feel I know him quite well and I do enjoy his rather quirky take on life as a droid. Technically, a droid isn’t alive but in his case I make an exception. Being part of the production is quite demanding in many ways and there was a point when I thought I should move on. But then, why would I? It’s a fascinating position to be in. It’s given me some truly great experiences, and I could never abandon Threepio. He’d be destroyed, for sure. I guess we need each other.
Do you do any stage acting in your “spare” time?
No. I gradually moved away from theater, which I loved, but eight shows a week limits your freedom and I do enjoy travelling and having a normal life. Certainly, in recent years, I have devoted most of my artistic life to portraying the gold man physically and verbally in so many varied projects. I am hugely lucky to play a character that looks as young as the day we first met him. On the outside, that is. On the inside, it’s something quite different. I go to the gym most days and try not to over-indulge.
What is one of the highlights of your career?
Being in the saga has been an extraordinary journey over more than four decades. But maybe that’s not the highlight. I’ll never forget being on the Muppet Show and Sesame Street.
Many years ago I worked with Disney on Star Tours, a thrilling and funny simulator ride. Now they’ve given it a huge upgrade and Threepio’s become the terrified pilot. He’s flying guests for twelve hours every day of the year, and if I were to believe in immortality, he’ll still be doing it long after I’m gone.
But the real highlight of my career was hosting a series of spectacular orchestral tours across the Americas, Europe and Japan. Star Wars In Concert saw me telling the story on stage, in front of thousands of fans and music lovers. Besides the thrill of introducing John Williams’ epic score every night, retelling the story gave me a greater insight into its depth. More than that, I experience the huge emotional warmth that flowed towards the stage; the affection of three generations for whom the Star Wars saga has become a treasured part of their lives too. And I’m a part of it all. Wow!