Anthony Daniels talks about returning to the golden suit and the human protocol droid C-3P0 who defined his career.
One of the truly startling things about Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn’t just that the team at Disney got back the original cast to reprise their roles. It’s that they got *all of them* to come back and reprise their original roles, even the ones whose faces we never saw. Peter Mayhew is the man inside the Chewbacca fur. Kenny Baker is still running around in his little R2-D2 ride. And Anthony Daniels is still the fidgety fussbudget of a protocol droid. And according to Daniels’ new cover story interview with Vulture, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Carrie Fisher recently referred to the old guard as the “legacy players.” Daniels has his own phrase for them: “I keep calling us heritage players. I feel more like an heirloom on the mantelpiece than anything.” For Daniels, as it is for many of those who had their lives changed by the franchise there’s a commitment to the series that goes beyond anything else, which is why when Abrams suggested they could have a younger man hang out inside the suit, and just have Daniels do the voice he refused. “People say, ‘What’s it like to go back to C-3PO? Well, I never left him.”
One thing that was certain from the getgo–C-3P0 was never going to be CGI. That was considered the major mistake of the prequels, and one Disney was determined not to make. They even recreated the Millennium Falcon as a real prop. (One that then went and broke Harrison Ford’s leg, but nevermind.) Daniels, on the other hand, remember the original Falcon set–and how, when the trilogy was done, it was destroyed, because apparently no one really thought how much it might come in handy forty years later. “Do you know I own six pieces of the Millennium Falcon? I found them burning it on the back lot one day. The industry was very willing to destroy its own history for many years.”
Still, though Daniels might have refused to allow another man to wear his suit, he wasn’t above having it redone with better modern technology. The original was “roughly 30 pounds of plastic and fiberglass” according to the article. “I think they didn’t realize our skin actually moves, articulates by itself,” says Daniels. “It was a nightmare. I was cut pretty much everywhere.” So though there was an upgraded version made for Return of the Jedi, Daniels talked with Abrams about rethinking the suit completely. The new one is is made with a 3D printer, and if any parts ever chafe, or otherwise become disfigured and uncomfortable, they are reprinted and replaced immediately.
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Another reason Daniels wanted to be the one in the suit–he fought hard to be allowed to use his own voice, and to not just be a silent performer in a mask. Lucas has originally imagined C-3P0 as being a “used car dealer from the Bronx,” instead of the fussy butler type. Daniels admits he was lucky that he convinced the director to change his mind, or his career would have gone nowhere, like that of David Prowse. (The man in the Darth Vader suit in the original movie, who only learned his voice had been replaced with James Earl Jones when he went to see it in the theaters.)
Daniels is also very defensive of C-3P0, even as fans have thought of him as the most disposable character in the franchise. “There are times I have felt belittled,” he says. “And I think occasionally it makes me overly pretentious, clever, didactic. I want somebody to know I’ve got a brain. Most people are allowed to wear their brain on their face, but my face is hidden, and I do such a wacky job. People think, What an idiot, what kind of actor would do a performance like this? I like C-3PO, I’m very fond of him, and if anybody belittles him, they belittle me.” But, as the article points out, C-3P0 holds a special place in the Star Wars world–he’s one of the only constants in what is now the third set of trilogies in 40 years. “Each time I would appear on the set in full regalia, George would say, ‘Ah, now Star Wars has arrived.’” He is the droid we are always looking for.”
I look forward to seeing our favorite comical golden fussbudget complain about this latest series of adventures.
(Images via New York Magazine)