Anthony Daniels, the man inside the C-3PO costume, was on hand before the opening of “Star Wars and the Power of Costume” at Discovery Times Square. We spoke with the 69-year-old actor about the iconic character.
What makes C-3PO costume so memorable?
Because it is. … I looked at the eyes of the character … and totally connected, as though there was sort of a flash, and I always describe having seen seeing the Mona Lisa in Paris. It’s a very, very famous painting. Absolutely does not connect with me at all.
How was it acting in the costume?
Some people think that 3PO’s face is makeup, or it moves. It doesn’t, it’s totally fixed, you know. But it’s what I do with the rest of my body. And the emotion, because I’m acting away inside there, some people say I’m over-acting away inside there, but you have to be a little exaggerated to get through a ton of plastic.
Like in a silent film.
Absolutely, very good point, because they didn’t have voice, and of course now it looks hilarious, but with 3PO it’s slightly attenuated because of the plastic. But then the smallest, because of the design of the costume, sometimes the smallest movements read very clearly. One of my favorite moments that comes to mind, in the first film where Alec Guinness has just been wiped out by Darth Vader and 3PO just sits there looking so sad, just a little drop of the head, and I watch these films in other times and I think “Oh god, what was I doing? Why did I do that? It’s terrible!” Because I was good at mime, I kind of knew what worked and maybe what didn’t. You’re right to say it’s an iconic figure because anyone you show that … and then I’m inside. Of course, people say, “Don’t you get fed up at not being recognized?”
Just hearing you though, it’s immediate.
Even better, I go “Hello, I’m C-3PO, human cyborg relations. Here is my counterpart R2-D2, and my new best friend BB-8.” That amuses, gives me huge pleasure. Think of the readthrough for Episode 7, “The Force Awakens.” We’re in this huge room, and everybody’s being Han Solo, or Luke Skywalker, or whatever, and suddenly C-3PO comes along, and everyone kind of applauded, and I was really touched, because instantly it brought back original “Star Wars.” I don’t need the costume to “sound like C-3PO.”
What were the challenges of being in the costume?
Oh, what wasn’t the challenges. The main thing is no peripheral vision, that I can only see exactly where I’m looking. … So I have to rehearse knowing [what] will be there when I turn. One I do remember in the desert, because desert looks the same there as it does there, sand and sun, I think I had to turn to camera and do something, and I think I blinked or whatever because I actually did a full 360, I couldn’t find where the camera was. Probably that’s the issue. Because I always rehearse without the head on, so I’m actually looking at Carrie Fisher and she’s looking at me, and one of the ways 3PO works, really, is that somebody like Carrie or Mark [Hamill] responds to 3PO so honestly, I mean total belief, so you the audience believe also. It’s great fun, and I suppose we all do it, we all improvise. I look at R2 like it’s really there and really speaking to me and it’s not, but you believe, that this will happen, it’s all in post-production, that sort of magic. The restriction, I will tell you, for this film, if you look at this costume carefully you will see that this part of the hand is missing because one day on “Return of the Jedi” I cut all that away so that I could actually bend my fingers, but they were still way too big. And now, I do have hands that I can actually pick things up, because that was frustrating, guessing like in one of those fairground grab machines, “Will I win a prize? No, not this time.” And all the time the film is running and you feel like an idiot, because it’s not working. Not to be able to have manual dexterity is bothersome, but that’s all changed now, because they 3-D printed this new suit. This is the old style, it looks exactly the same, but they’ve been able to make adjustments that help me give a performance.
If you go: “Star Wars and the Power of Costume” opens Nov. 14 at Discovery Times Square, 226 W. 44th St., 866-987-9692, discoverytsx.com, $27.50, adults; $24, seniors 65+; $20, kids 3-11.