After nearly 40 years in the role, Anthony Daniels is still suiting up as the galaxy's favorite protocol droid.
Daniels is one of only two actors (the other is Kenny Baker, who plays Daniels' counterpart, R2-D2) to have appeared in every Star Wars film thus far, and he'll return for his seventh big-screen appearance as C-3PO in Episode VII next year. But Daniels has never really left the Threepio role behind. He's appeared as the character in theme park rides, animated series, audiobooks, radio shows and more, and in a new interview with Entertainment Weekly about the role, Daniels made it clear that he still feels a particular kind of ownership of the character. He is, perhaps, the only actor ever allowed much room for improvisation by Star Wars creator George Lucas, and even at 68, he still wants to be the guy in the shiny suit playing the physically demanding role, because he wants to be sure that Threepio still moves like Threepio.
"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. [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."
After more than three decades, C-3PO and R2-D2 remain key symbols of Star Wars. More than any other characters, they've been the saga's mascots, Greek chorus and constant witnesses, and given Disney's ambitious plans for the franchise's future, it's quite possible they'll be appearing in films long after Daniels and Baker are able to keep playing them. When reminded that Harrison Ford once famously requested that Han Solo be killed off, Daniels pondered the end of C-3PO and came to the conclusion that, unlike the humans around him, Threepio would endure.
"Would he rust, gently? … I think probably he would realize that his programming was failing, that it was too old fashioned, and Microsoft had stopped supporting that particular brand. He would see upcoming new robots and realize his power source was running out. He’d say to R2, 'Can you go down and get me a new power spectrum?' or whatever. I don’t think he’d ever — I’m looking at this image with [C-3PO having his replacement] silver leg. I think he would go on. Getting spare parts, getting surgery. And I think the people around him, humans and droids alike, would help because he would become part of their daily lives, part of their environment. They wouldn’t want to let him go. You know, I’m a great do-it-yourself person at home. I mend pretty much anything I can, whether it’s melting plastic with a hot skewer from the stove because the plastic is cracked, or with my glue gun mending this or that, or cannibalizing a part from something else that I kept in the workshop. I will keep objects going. I’m not from the throw-away culture, I’m from the make-and-mend culture. Threepio is nice to have around. I think he would go on and on and on."
Daniels returns as C-3PO in Star Wars: Rebels, premiering Oct. 3 on the Disney Channel and Oct. 13 on Disney XD. Star Wars: Episode VII hits theaters Dec. 18, 2015.