Every May, Star Wars fans celebrate the beloved movie series by saying “May the fourth be with you,” a clever play on the iconic phrase from the films, “May the force be with you.”
For Anthony Daniels, the actor who gives the droid C-3PO his heart and human-like qualities, May 4 is a day to give appreciation. “On this day I really say thank you to everybody who has supported me,” says Daniels.
Daniels is certainly a favorite among Star Wars fans. He is the only actor to have appeared in every film in the Star Wars series, and he has voiced the character of C-3PO in numerous spinoff series, video games and collectible toys. And while starring as the golden robot has had its ups and downs, Daniels says for the most part it has been a joyful experience that has kept him “happily employed.”
For those wishing for an insider’s look into Daniels’ career, Daniels has written a book titled “I Am C-3PO: The Inside Story” with a forward written by director J.J. Abrams. In his book, Daniels brings the reader along with him into the world of Star Wars, giving readers a behind-the-scenes look into the decades-long franchise.
Daniels describes in detail the making of each trilogy in the series. “I want people to come along and feel how it was. You know, the sound was gritty, the wind was cold, the dialogue was rubbish. All these things to make them feel a part of it,” says Daniels.
As Daniels explains in the book, he never expected the first film in the series, “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,” to be a hit. He initially declined an audition with director George Lucas, and it was only after the film premiered that he realized its popularity.
According to Daniels, Star Wars opened without any fanfare. But once audiences witnessed the story of Luke Skywalker and his robot friends, word of mouth caused the film’s popularity to go into hyperdrive. “The people who went in, just kind of mildly interested, ran out shouting. And because of that, they brought their friends,” says Daniels.
Not only was the film’s success unpredictable to Daniels, filming opposite a robot had its share of surprises. As Daniels explains in his book, thanks to movie magic, things are not always what they seem in Star Wars. The comical “beeps” and “boops” from R2-D2, C-3PO’s counterpart, were not actually audible during filming.
“R2-D2 did not make a sound on the set. I didn’t know this was going to be the case,” explained Daniels. “I was saying a line and expecting a reply.”
Daniels did ask Lucas to fill in a few “beep-boops,” but Lucas was not helpful. “He tried. It wasn’t good,” says Daniels. From then on Daniels only imagined R2-D2’s dialogue.
Because Daniels’ involvement with the series spans from the 1970s to present day, he has experience working in both physical and digital sets. He recalls filming on the sets of “A New Hope.”
“In the first film, half the Millennium Falcon was actually a painting on the wall,” says Daniels. The rest of the sets were painted to look real. “That fascinated me. I would go and poke bits of machinery that turned out to be made of plywood.”
As the series continued in the late 1990s through 2019, Daniels was introduced to digital backgrounds and says he prefers using physical props and sets. “It's boring if you are surrounded by green walls or blue walls,” says Daniels. “There is room for both frankly. It's just more fun if you can walk into a rebel base and go ‘Oh wow look at this! Isn't that fantastic?’”
Of course, even with real sets, Daniels has to be careful. During filming, he kicked a rock thinking it was plastic or polystyrene. It was real. “It taught me a lesson,” says Daniels.
Throughout “I Am C-3PO: The Inside Story” Daniels says goodbye to the Star Wars cast and crew at the end of the first two trilogies, not realizing the series was destined to continue, but by the end of the book the “goodbyes” become all too real.
Daniels describes his last day on the set of “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker,” the final film in the series, with sincere appreciation. “It was lump-in-the-throat time,” says Daniels. “I had the best time filming ‘The Rise of Skywalker.’”
Although the original concept for three separate trilogies has been fully realized, fans will be happy to know that Daniels continues to work in a studio, giving voice to the character.
Still, Star Wars fans may wonder what will become of C-3PO should future episodes be created in years to come. Daniels says he thinks C-3PO should continue on in the series. “I think he ought to go on living – surviving, being, whatever robots do – with or without me.”