Anthony Daniels


Anthony Daniels is best known to thousands as the lovable droid C3PO from the Star Wars movies. Jeff Watson caught up with him at the opening of The Art of Star Wars Exhibition in Bradford on the 12 October 2000...

Jeff Watson: You've been playing the part of C3PO for a long time now...

Anthony Daniels: Yes I know and it is quite frightening to think about it. I was just thinking the other day, do you realise it's around 25 years ago since I first stood in the desert and said 'I am C3PO, human-cyborg relations and this is my counterpart R2D2'. 25 years and I'm still doing it!

JW: Apart from opening the exhibition here in Bradford, what else have you been up to recently? I understand you are currently involved in principal photography for Episode II of Star Wars.

AD: Indeed we are. In fact I have just flown in hotfoot, and indeed, hot everything, from an extremely hot Tunisia where we are currently filming Star Wars: Episode II, which is actually the fifth movie in the whole saga, I think. My maths isn't very good. Filming on Star Wars over the years has taken me to all sorts of exotic places. And this next movie is no exception. For Star Wars: Episode II I have been to some beautiful locations: Italy, North Africa, Spain, Australia and today, Bradford. (smiles).

JW: What's it like being back over here? Is the British weather a bit of a disappointment?

AD: (laughs) Well, it's kind of nice to be back here after some length of time. And, of course, I'm thrilled to be here for the Art of Star Wars exhibition. It's really great that people can come and see this exhibition and see the original stuff that started it all off. This stuff is all here, as am I, all because of one man: George Lucas.

JW: I understand that you nearly didn't turn up for the audition.

AD: Yes that's correct. When I was first told about the auditions by my manager I wasn't really interested. I actually refused to meet this George Lucas guy. I found it strange that somebody I'd never even heard of wanted me to play the part of a robot in a science fiction film. It sounded crazy.

JW: I take it you weren't a big sci-fi nut then?

AD: No, not at all. I didn't really like science fiction. Robots were Daleks, right - they could exterminate you with a sink-plunger but that was about all I knew about the genre. I remember when I first saw 2001: A Space Odyssey. I left the theatre and went and found the box office manager, and I told him I wanted my money back. He just stared at me, not impressed and asked 'why?' I told him I thought it was a very poor rate film. And he looked at me, in his dinner jacket, and he said, 'Bugger off!'

JW: So what changed your mind? Why did you eventually turn up to see George Lucas?

AD: I told my agent, 'I'm an actor. Actor!' and that I didn't want to be shut inside a metal suit all day. She told me not to be stupid and go and meet him. I also found out that the reason he wanted to see me was that, physically, I was quite small. Also I was good at mime, I was an actor and, possibly the most important thing, I was incredibly cheap (laughs).

Anyway, I walked into George's office, and at first I thought I'd walked into the wrong room. I think I was expecting some kind of cigar wielding impresario, and what greeted me was this totally ordinary person. It was really strange. Here was this guy who was a little smaller than me, who was also very quiet and shy. So we sat there, and it was really kind of polite. We engaged in boring, quiet conversation. I started to worry as I was running out of time and we hadn't really made any sort of connection. Then I looked up and noticed that on his office wall, George had a number of framed paintings. One of them stuck out, and I said, 'Is this the character you had in mind?' George's eyes lit up, and he left the desk and he walked over. This painting was a conceptional work depicting 3PO by Ralph Macquarrie and it showed C3PO on a kind of rocky surface of a moon. Just standing there with his little friend R2. And do you know something, 3PO looked out of the picture, straight into my soul. He looked so forlorn, kind of sad, and somehow he seemed to be saying 'Help me. Help me.' How could I resist?

JW: So you came to C3PO's rescue?

AD: Absolutely. And for 25 years now I've been helping him. And he's been kind of helping me. Yes, so that's how I got involved - all because of a painting. At the time I didn't know what was going to be involved. And little did I know that he would become a hero. But, what is interesting, being back in Bradford, is what we are honouring here with the opening of this exhibition, is all the people who are behind the movies. We all know that the actors get all the praise: the lights are pointing at them, the cameras are focussed on them. They get the best special effects and make-up artists to make them look beautiful. and it's very easy to forget all the stuff that goes into making them look so good. The costumes, the lighting, the scenery - whatever - the effects, the models, the hair, the makeup, and now all the computer animation.

You think Harrison Ford's doing the whole thing but he's not. Don't tell him I said that! Sure he puts in a great performance but without all the behind-the-scenes work it wouldn't be the same. And this exhibition, of course, is all about the detail that goes into making these movies look and feel so great. Now, you've been going round the exhibits. Isn't that detail amazing? Stuff you never see in the movie, you know, all the spaceships whizzing by, you never get to see the little bits of stuff on them. All those actors striding past in their costumes, you don't see the detail, as you can see here. And it's all about details, and what is so great is being able to meet all those people who work on those details. And hopefully, in the future, there'll be more coming.

There's another movie coming up, obviously, in 2002. We start shooting the next one sometime in 2003, so we ain't finished just yet.

JW: Good luck and thank you for your time.

The Art of Star Wars Exhibition is currently open at Bradford's Film and Television Museum until 29 April 2001.

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