Exclusive: Anthony Daniels contemplates C-3P0's death and developing the voice of a protocol droid

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Apr 29, 2019, 6:19 AM EDT (Updated)

Star Wars fans and costumers, rejoice: Starting Dec. 14, the Discovery Times Square Museum is bringing the garments of a galaxy far, far away to the here and now. Fans can see Obi-Wan’s robes (not linen but silk) and Padme’s magnificent dresses with their own eyes — as well as dozens of other pieces and their accoutrements, including clothes and armor from the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I attended a walk-through of the dimly lit exhibition, which used sound and shadow to evoke Star Wars' atmosphere. And to my surprise and delight, Anthony Daniels (everyone’s favorite protocol droid, C-3PO) was there. 

It’s no wonder Daniels was cast as a protocol droid: When I entered the room he was in, he graciously made sure I was seated and comfortable before speaking. But, I noted, the original C-3PO was supposed to have the personality of a slick used car salesman.

Daniels said, “George never told me that. He had a lot on his mind.” So he went with his instincts. “Actors read something, and they interpret it in their own way. [C-3PO] is basically neurotic and scared and in the wrong place, always. And when you’re uptight, the voice tends to come higher up, squeaking-with-fear-sort-of-thing. On the day with everything coming together,” he said, dropping into his character’s voice, “3PO arrived.”

But it wasn’t the most welcome arrival at first. To get into the costume, Daniels said, “The first day, it took two hours with six people. Although [the metal costume] had been made to my body by a sculptor, Liz Moore, it didn’t move. It was rigid and would cut into me.”

However, over the years, “We fiddled with it, stuck a bit of cotton here or there, and made it better. Now I put it on in ten minutes [with] two people. That has made a huge difference, because that means I can take it off between setups and takes.”

But the costume has become part of the character: Whenever Daniels voices C-3PO (which he does frequently) he finds himself standing straight and upright, as if he were still encased in metal. 

“If I have visitors in the studio, they laugh because ... this area and this area [pointing to his diaphragm and ribs] is in a certain configuration, so I match it totally in my mind. And they say, ’It’s like you’re wearing a costume.’”

Daniels dons his shiny metal persona again in the upcoming film, The Force Awakens ...which, unsurprisingly, he was tight-lipped about.  

“The one thing I can tell you about filming The Force Awakens is the atmosphere on the set was so exciting, so loving, so fun-filled, a complete joy every day. If the joy on the set comes through on the screen, it’s going to be very good film." 

However, it wasn't a perfectly perfect experience. “It was still hard work, still hot, kind of uncomfortable, and you’ve got to be patient and do it over and over and over again.” 

What with “a hundred” extras all in motion and even “things flying” in the shot, each take had to be repeated multiple times. 

“When we’re heading for the fourteenth [take], I would just pray, please let all this come together.”

So, does C-3PO die in the end? “I know I’m personally going to die one day, but 3PO? I still don’t have the answer. I don’t know what happens to him. I would hate to think of him languishing in the corner somewhere, because I’m very fond of him.” 

To learn the fate of C-3PO, and the rest of the galaxy, watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens, starting Dec. 18. But first, check out the gallery below.