'It’s not the end. It’s an end': Anthony Daniels on his decades-long career as C-3PO

Chris Knight talks to Anthony Daniels about his new memoir, I Am C-3PO, which covers 40 years of Star Wars moviemaking from his perspective

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The title of Anthony Daniels’ new book — I Am C-3PO — recalls a similar memoir by Leonard Nimoy, I Am Spock. But when I ask the 73-year-old British actor about that, he tells me the title wasn’t his idea.

He’d wanted to call it Telling the Odds, a reference to the Star Wars droid’s habit of calculating chances of survival, which are always dismal. But the publishers preferred a more direct title.

“I regard him as a completely separate entity,” says Daniels in his natural voice, which is almost but not quite like 3PO’s. “And if you mess with him I’ll get pissed off. Often on a set I will be the living guardian if you like of his personality.”

Daniels gives full credit to the writers of the Star Wars franchise but adds: “He’s not going to say something that I don’t approve of. And that way he stays in character. It’s me tweaking and critiquing: ‘If you said it this way it would sound like him.’ ”

I regard him as a completely separate entity

Daniels is in the midst of a press tour for the book, which coincides with the mounting excitement for the release of The Rise of Skywalker, the final chapter in the nine-film saga that began in 1977.

“Suddenly there were these hanging points, this coatrack of films, that made a kind of framework to put stories associated with the films around them,” he says. “There’s a sense of closure.”

But will he ever don the golden droid’s costume again? “Possibly,” he shrugs. “Never forget, I have a choice.” And he calls attention to the last words in the book: An End. “It’s not the end. It’s an end.”

I Am 3-CPO is a delightful ramble through more than 40 years of Star Wars history, told from Daniels’ unique perspective. Not that he always had the best view. When the first movie was being shot, crew members would sometimes forget he was an actor and not a prop. And when the “human” cast found early fame, the droids were often shunted to the sidelines.

“There were bits I wanted to say for the first time, hopefully with a faint mellowness that has come with age and distance,” he says. “I didn’t talk about my feelings at the time because I didn’t want to spoil people’s enjoyment. The fact that I wasn’t asked to the party shouldn’t stop people at the party from having a great time.”

He pauses: “Now I’m at the party,” he notes. “And it feels good!”

He doesn’t hide that he liked some filmmakers more than others. The late Richard Marquand, director of Return of the Jedi, receives particular scorn. And he seems bemused by George Lucas’s behaviour on the set of the prequels, always wanting to fix things in post-production — add a character, move a prop — when the solution was physically right in front of him.

J.J. with his 10-year-old’s enthusiasm just brought it alive again

But Daniels’ admiration shines through for J.J. Abrams, who directed 2015’s The Force Awakens as well as The Rise of Skywalker, and who wrote the forward to I Am 3-CPO. “J.J. with his 10-year-old’s enthusiasm just brought it alive again,” he says, calling the director “adorable” as well as “brilliant.”

I ask about the happenstance of even becoming 3PO in the first place. The book recalls his first meeting with Lucas for a part that, at the time, didn’t really interest Daniels. Then there was Lucas’s desire to have Richard Dreyfuss provide the voice of 3PO, which would have ended Daniels’ association with Star Wars after the first film.

“I wouldn’t have done it if were just the physical side,” he says firmly. But he’s not sure about my choice of words. “Happenstance?” he says, trying it out. “Fate?” An impish grin crosses his features. “The Force?”

I Am C-3PO by Anthony Daniels (272 pp, $31.99) is published by DK. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens across Canada on Dec. 19.

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