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“The first time I had to put on the C-3PO costume, it took me two hours”

Anthony Daniels, the actor who hides in the costume of C-3PO in all the “Star Wars” films since 1977. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

He is the only actor to have acted in all the films of the three trilogies Star Wars. Anthony Daniels, British, born in 1946, donned the golden costume of C-3PO, the protocol droid on screen for the first few scenes, for nine episodes.A new hope, released in 1977. In his autobiography I am C-3PO (DK, November 2019, untranslated), Anthony Daniels talks about his acting career which, after a few years of theater, was therefore built around the interpretation of one of the most famous robots in cinema. The world interviewed him before the release of episode IX, The Ascension of Skywalker, signed J. J. Abrams, which comes out in theaters, Wednesday, December 18.

Also read: “Star Wars: The Ascension of Skywalker”: the questions that arise before episode IX

You still wear, in the last “Star Wars”, the robot costume invented for the first film, 42 years ago. Isn't it a bit anachronistic?

People are surprised when they learn that I still have to wear a real robot costume. I could have worn a green one; the film crew then allegedly animated it with special effects. But it remains expensive and not easy. And we would lose a piece of humanity in doing so.

C-3PO is a robot, and the fact that I am its puppeteer, in a way, makes all the difference. Without special effects, it looks more real. In The Ascension of Skywalker, most animals, aliens, or weird things on the screen, are animated, or embodied entirely, by human beings. It is this humanity that makes these puppets so alive.

“Star Wars”, since its release, has a futuristic side: we talk about stellar wars, spaceships, with extraterrestrials, robots … Isn't there a paradox to have, above all, to make them live with “humanity” ?

For the past forty years, Star Wars is gone in all directions. There may have been, in the prelogy [les épisodes I, II et III sortis entre 1999 et 2005], too much use of green or blue funds. The shooting had then become a tedious hair.

When you got there on Monday morning, there was nothing exciting or inspiring. We said to ourselves: “Um, OK, today everything is green. “ In a film like The Ascension of Skywalker, we tell ourselves : “Phew! There is reality everywhere! “ J. J. Abrams has returned to an almost visceral use of concrete materials.

Has this changed the way you embody C-3PO?

The first time I had to put on the robot costume, it took me two hours. It was a unique, unprecedented creation. And so: nothing was fine with me. It was uncomfortable, even dangerous, for example in the scenes in the sand. I stuck my arms, I fell …

When J.J. asked me if I wanted to participate in Force Awakens, I answered : ” Yes “, but I said: “I want a new costume! “ So they created a brand new one, printed in 3D. The best thing, compared to the previous ones: don't take half an hour to put your head on. After each take, I could take the air, and even take off the whole costume, to sit, rest … Everything was much easier to play.

All the more so with the enthusiasm of J. J. Abrams. On the set, it looked like he was still ten years old – while being superintelligent, inspired, imaginative. He transmitted this energy to the whole team. I'm talking about the actors, but also the hundreds of people who were there to film, build the sets, create the furniture or the costumes…

All these people who also had their own history with Star Wars. It gave an exquisite atmosphere during the filming, connected to what George Lucas had created decades ago.

Where did you get the emotion after your last take in the role of C-3PO for “The Ascension of Skywalker”?

I am often asked if I was sad. After forty-two years in the character's shoes, in your opinion? Of course I was. I didn't want to cry, but I was very surprised to realize how moved I am, and still am. However, I was not sad to see this story come to an end. I find this end of the trilogy beautiful, and above all, satisfactory. It was done right.

Anthony Daniels in Paris, in October.
Anthony Daniels in Paris, in October. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

If “Star Wars” was going out today, would we see a character of a protocol robot? Smartphone applications manage to translate on the fly…

One of the many clever things put in place by George Lucas was to locate the script for Star Wars not in our galaxy, nor even in our time, but in a very distant period, which one can only imagine.

All of this happens far away, in a world with its own temporality. It has little to do with our planet, where we have artificial intelligence today that far surpasses the capabilities of C-3PO … Even if, as far as I know, no two-legged robot today has its capabilities.

You are British: in your opinion, what would C-3PO think of the negotiation processes currently underway on planet Earth, like Brexit?

The happiness that such a character exists in another galaxy lies precisely in this last point, isn't it? They have big problems with rascals, monsters, emperors, soldiers of the Empire …

But I would be worried about what C-3PO would think when it arrives on our planet today. We would surely need him to come and say to some people: “You, stop! Be nice ! Behave better! “

In Star Wars, there is a real moral dimension. But it's not just between the good guys and the bad guys. We speak of virtuous behavior, of belief in what is right, in what is correct, for oneself and for an entire planet. So basically, thinking about it, I think it would be better if C-3PO never came to visit us. I am deeply concerned about the changes that my generation and those that are going through are going through.

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