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Interviews -
Face To Face With The Masters

Any citizen of the galaxy may be summoned to answer to the Jedi Council. Here you may read the transcripts of such sessions.

Cellblock 1138 - 1997-1999 - 2000 - 2002 - 2003+

Daniels holding C3P0. Provided by Beverly At this past August's Wizards of the Coast GenCon Gaming Convention, Helen Keier had the opportunity to sit down and chat with C3PO himself, Anthony Daniels, during a rare convention appearance. They talked about Mr. Daniels' other work, his memories of working on A New Hope and with George Lucas, filming Episode II, Mr. Daniels' fondness for the late Sir Alec Guinness, and oddly enough, the best way to prepare Ewok.

Here is Helen's conversation with Mr. Daniels.

TFN: One of the things I've always heard about is how involved you've remained since the 70's in SW, and recently you served as a consultant for the exhibit at the Barbican.

AD: That's right. And that's moving up to Bradford. Just as I left we were arranging to do the opening there. We had a wonderful experience on the Saturday I left... I brought in a bunch of Stormtroopers that I had met at a particular event. [The event] was so good that I asked them if that they would work with me, sharpen their act a tiny bit, just to make sure they had some rules... Their costumes were terrific, their performance was terrific, their attitude was terrific... I flew to New York on a Saturday, and before I left I rushed into the Barbican at 8:30 AM, rehearsed with them, went over everything several times, spent about 3 hours there and watched the faces of the customers as they walked out. It was great.. a great addition to the exhibition, I thought. So I'd like to involved them when opportune. I worked there, because I also work in the exhibition industry. It was interesting how the particulars came together so I could help on the exhibition side, and my knowledge of Star Wars side. It was a really good thing to be associated with. I'm very pleased with that.

TFN: What else can you tell us about the ways you've stayed involved over the years with Star Wars, and with various Star Wars projects?

AD: Well, so many things... because my voice is one of the most recognizable, I think probably mine and James Earl Jones's. Probably Yoda's voice is pretty recognizable but... I'm not boasting, they're just fairly recognizable voices. It's always nice to hear James doing CNN. It makes me smile, you know, sitting here in the hotel and it's good. I think that has marked me out as a sort of spokesperson voice for many projects, naturally the radio series and all that kind of thing. But 3PO also because he's a medium for education in many ways. He has this sort of erudite quality. I think that has helped, and also his image is quite a benign image, so he's an image for good, rather than like an image of, say Darth Maul (who I think is just great) that is a certain spectre of the Dark Side, shall we say. I really liked Darth Maul, and Ray Park, too. He's such a nice guy and he plays such a bad person. So somehow... I have but also I have been quite selective in what I do, so that I am not everywhere all the time. You know I don't kind of do it full-time, these conventions, maybe one or two a year because I want to keep it fresh for me, and fresh also for the people I meet. If I were at a convention every weekend I think I would wear myself out.

TFN: You've mentioned education, and you've done some educational projects, haven't you?

AD: I used to write, umm... I've done so many things, I actually do forget. People remind me... "Oh yes, that's right. It was good" It's called being senile, I think. I used to write stories and musicals for BBC, children's stuff, but that was a while ago. And then of course I began to write for the Star Wars Insider, The Incredibly Improved Wonder Column... That was fun. All my stories were true. People think they're made up. They're not. They're specific things that are true. Sometimes they change the names not to embarrass the innocent, and of course they just made the CD last year.

So I kind of do a bit of everything, and then it seemed somehow I became the host of the Star Wars Celebration last year, which was such a joy I can't tell you. I don't know if you were there but [there were] appalling conditions with the rain and it brought out - like World War II in England - it brought out the best in the fans. They could have sat there and cried, instead they said "We won't be defeated." In a way it helped the atmosphere, strangely enough. People really went through it. It was their Woodstock and all that kind of thing, and I really liked that. It almost made me tearful that they were so giving, because they could have moaned about the whole thing, instead they all stuck with it. We all stuck with it. It was awful for me, frankly. It was awful. I can't tell you how disappointed I was. But you know, I pretended not to be and they pretended not to be and then suddenly you weren't. It all worked. It was magic, really magic. There were lots of terrific guests. And we all had a good time

TFN: It sounds like you enjoyed it as much as the fans did.

AD: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I worked. I really worked, all the hours. I couldn't have worked any more... because I'd been out there a couple of weeks preparing. And when I got on the plane back to England, the pilot had the copy of The Phantom Menace in the cockpit, and all the staff on the plane were fans. And I stayed up all night talking, and I was drinking champagne because now I could relax at the end of it. I don't think I had a glass of anything the whole [time in Denver] because I was working so hard. So I stayed up the whole night, drank champagne, whatever. It felt great, until I closed my front door behind me. And just - I think for about three weeks - just collapsed. It took me so long to get over the whole thing. When you give a lot, it does take a while to get back into it again.

TFN: Would you do it again? Would you do another Celebration?

AD: In a New York minute, as they say. Yes. Yes.

TFN: Well as a New Yorker, I know how short those are.

AD: I would have no hesitation. This time it wouldn't rain.

TFN: Ok. I'll put the order in advance.

TFN: You mentioned the Insider a second ago. One thing I've always been curious about was, how did that come about?

AD: It came about because to be honest with you, they did an interview with me - if you want the honest truth - and they faxed it to me, and I kind of felt it wasn't quite the way I had said things. Sometimes people paraphrase what you say and it becomes the way you wouldn't say it. So I asked Dan Madsen the editor of the whole thing if I could just change it back, because that wasn't quite what I'd meant. He said sure. Then I sent it in, back to him, and he rang up and said you can write. I can write, but I can't spell. The computer does that. He asked me if I would write a column. And then I did a very silly thing. I just developed the most complicated method of speaking possible. I made it really, really hard for myself. That was really dumb. Be warned. Anybody out there - if you're going to do something, really think about how you're going to start off, because that's the way you've got to continue. It's like starting off as 3PO. You know, I made it quite difficult for myself. 3PO's voice is difficult because 3PO doesn't breathe. I mean, robots don't breathe, and 3PO pretty much a stream of consciousness, because he's a computer... Computers don't think. They just kind of do it, don't they? So... sometimes being 3PO is difficult because of the way I started off, but he's not going to change.

TFN: So it became difficult to speak in that "voice"? Even on paper?

AD: Yes it did. My paper voice became so complicated. If you've ever read them, they're very complicated. They start in a certain way, they wander all around the galaxy, and then they come back to what I was originally talking about. You know, the real nice thing about it is, so many people have come up to me and said, Love the column, when are you going to do it again? And I say, "Well don't you find it difficult?" And they say "Oh yeah... you really have to read it. But it's great." Because I've had people say "Ahhh... I dunno watcha talkin' 'bout in the column? Uhhh... I don't get it...Err..." But you know, if one person gets it, it's fine by me. And so it was Dan Madsen who suggested it, and he has asked me to get off my sabbatical and do some more.

TFN Note: The Wonder Column CD is available at StarWars.Com.

TFN: Will you?

AD: I'm thinking about it.

TFN: What can you tell us about your non-Star Wars work? What is it that some of the fans might not know about?

AD: That I do regular ordinary TV and that I do voice dubbing work. I do voice overs. I just did this extraordinary program on artificial intelligence, which is all about computers, which is odd because I don't know anything about computers. So I'm speaking somebody else's lines, which is what actors do. I also have a number of business interests, for instance. I guess you could say I'm a jack of all trades, that I do a number of things, and I work also in the Middle East as a producer / director / trainer for a company in interactive entertainment.

TFN: What's your favorite non-Star Wars project you've worked on?

AD: I don't know. Don't know. Lots of things are the same. Often it's the people involved that make it interesting because when you're actually present, work is work, and often it's the type of person you're working with that makes a huge difference. And actually you're going to ask me about Episode II but one of the things that is so noticeable in Australia where I've just been was the atmosphere... how can I put it? The likebility of everybody that I came into contact with. Just a great atmosphere. The interaction... the work they were doing... the way they did it, the way they talked to each other... it was nice.

TFN: Sounds like a very strong sense of camaraderie.

AD: Enormous. Also a sense of common aim, without anybody trying to out do anybody else. It was fun. I think it was fun, and that has not always been the case.

TFN: What hasn't been [fun]?

AD: Fun originally... I know the first film wasn't a bunch of fun, the original Star Wars. That was sheer hard work. I had fun with Mark [Hamill] out in the desert when we started off. That was neat, because again that was like an all-time situation, it was such a nightmare, and Sir Alec in the desert. Maybe I'll talk about him in a minute. It was a fun atmosphere there. It all fell apart with us back in the studio back in England... Afterwards all the hoopla with the movie was strange, because back then they pretended I wasn't in the movie really. They wanted people to think 3PO was a robot. So they kind of never... I really wasn't included in any of the... what you say, the hoopla of the success. That all changed later on, and I think the people who had that whole thing are no longer with the company... It's very noticeable in Australia. There was constantly a documentary camera following me and others around and I felt very included.

TFN: Did the process of developing the character change because you were followed this time by documentary cameras?

AD: Oh, not at all because 3PO is very much 3PO, and always will be. I'm always trying to think of new little angles and obviously so is George. That's the way it works, but then you costume, and all that kind of thing. And of course there's so many rumors on the web already. The one I can concern [myself with] is about I've done the puppetry, which nearly kills me every time. It's a scary object, because it's so heavy. It's attached to my front about you know, about 12 inches away from me. And it is kind of frightening because it is very heavy to lift. We adapted the harness so it rests in a different way. I had to get really fit to do it.

TFN: Steve Sansweet...

AD: He's just come back.

TFN: He's been saying that we will be able to tell you are at the helm of 3PO...

AD: Did he just say that?

TFN: I've been told he's said this. How will we be able to tell? What do you think you're doing differently, or that people will pick up on, that it's really you this time, doing the puppetry?

AD: I don't know, but even I can see the difference. I've watched myself doing it on screen. Ben Burtt - who is very kind - the editor, and the sound editor as well, let me look at what I was doing on playback. And I was nicely surprised. Even I thought, gosh... You see, the weird thing is, you know these movies where you have the puppet and the ventriloquist, and in the middle of the movie the puppet takes over and generally kills everybody? Well, we're still short before the killing, but 3PO sort of has an entity and a life of his own, and it's very strange. I'm a part of it, but it does happen and looking at him talking, I could see that something had changed. And believe me, it took a lot of practice. I arrived there early just to rehearse.

TFN: Is it any different to watch yourself play C3PO as opposed to or compared to yourself playing a regular character, a human character?

AD: I don't like watching myself play a human character.

TFN: Do you like watching yourself playing C3PO?

AD: I don't. No, I'm watching him, so it's ok.

TFN: Do you think that's because it's not a human face?

AD: It's quite horrid sometimes, watching yourself do something.

TFN: OK, well that brings up a question. What have you done that you really hated doing, that really made you cringe? What are your thoughts [on this]?

AD: I'm not going to tell you. There's so many things. So many things. And some things I won't even admit to having watched so that I could deny having any knowledge of it.

TFN: That's fair.

AD: It's difficult if you get self-conscious as I could tell you. It can really get in the way.

TFN: One of the things you've talked about with C3PO, and you've mentioned elsewhere, that you have re-written a lot of your dialogue.

AD: I said that?

TFN: In the previous interview that was posted on our site, you commented that you had re-written some lines.

AD: Well, that's different than saying I had done a lot. The thing is about a script, you know, if the script is 80 pages long and you're just on a few of them, then the guy in charge generally has 80 pages to worry about, and you're on say, two of them. You have two pages to worry about, so you can give a lot of thought to it, and I did that... I offered George a suggestion and he said... ...and then for another scene I offered to him another suggestion, and he looked at me and he said "You're the only actor who re-writes the script," in a slightly threatening way, I thought. So I said "Well is it ok?" And he kinda said "Ok"

TFN: What were some of the things you have re-written or written?

AD: Oh, in the past, I can't remember. Sometimes you just do it off the cuff, or in dubbing, for instance. The only thing that immediately comes to mind is in Episode I where Natalie Portman - and I did this in dubbing, so it was very easy to fix things - she meets 3PO for the first time and she goes "Why... he's perfect" and they carried on. I said wouldn't it be neat if 3PO just said "Perfect." We just slipped that in there underneath as they're talking because this means that at the moment when 3PO is born, someone said he's wonderful, so he's been switched slightly to thinking he's perfect.

AD: And then of course, what happens... now what the joke is... immediately he meets R2, who says "You're naked." And the shock to find out he's not perfect, he's naked. This helps him to grow up a bit. So you see what I mean. There's a good example, actually.

TFN: That makes sense, even in the larger picture, even the later movies.

AD: So that's what I'm thinking. I know how it all joins up. But I'm working on a couple of pages, George is working on 80. Do you see?

TFN: Yes.

AD: But I think he sometimes... he can always say no. I can always offer it, but a couple times he's said ok.

TFN: What can you tell us the involvement you've had so far with Episode II? You've just returned from Australia, and we're all guessing that you're taking off somewhere else shortly.

AD: Yes, I'm going to meet them all up wherever they send me.. again... in Tunisia

TFN: Is that shortly?

AD: That is in about 3 weeks for now.

TFN: What preparations are you [making] for returning to Tunisia? You've had the experience already - the heat...

AD: I'm checking with my doctor for added injections of heat.

TFN: Ok...

AD: No... I know, you know, I wear a lot of sunscreen, because I've got very fair skin, so I burn easily. Sun hats, that's it. That's it.

And I'm looking forward to being with the crew again. It is like... I was going to say like being in a big family, but that makes it sound like we're the Osmonds, which I don't mean. It is just nice to relax with people... again, what was lovely, I would tell you, on the set, and I really felt it and I could actually see it, that when I began to speak I would go ... and get it. We're back in Star Wars. And that's a compliment to me. It's not a compliment, but it just kind of makes me feel.

The downside of that comment is that I suddenly realized I am the grand old man of Star Wars. I'm the only one who's been there the whole time, in that 25 years. That makes me one of the oldest people on the set and that's fine. I can't argue with that. Sir Alec is gone now and I know I realized that I really am. So when I go "Hello, I am C3PO," they all go . I have met some of the new actors who've joined us. I've met some wonderful people. That sounded so Hollywood. I didn't mean it to be. Some of the most delightful actors that I met out there, why a lot of them are coming up and saying "It's so wonderful to meet you." It made me feel like you could just send me off. As a fellow actor, you just take it. We're all professionals. [All] because they'd been like 10 years old when they saw Star Wars. I was already 29 by then, or 30, I can't remember.

TFN: You've mentioned Sir Alec. All of us are very saddened at his passing. He lived a wonderful life.

AD: He lived a fabulous life!

TFN: He's got a great body of work.

AD: I heard in the limo in New York. I was coming back from dinner, and there was some rubbish on the radio about the cost of wieners at Safeway's or something. And it came on "Breaking news. Sir Alec Guinness - Dead." And the New York Times did a whole page, a whole page of his. I didn't even check the chid. I looked out the window, as if there's dead people somehow floating around in the smog above the city. He was really kind to me, he was. I could not - and I've been quoted as this - done Star Wars without him because he was the one, George didn't have time to nurse-maid anyone. He was trying to get a movie made. It was Sir Alec who kept me there, who told me I was good. He told other people I was good. Who took me to stay with him and his wife on the weekends so we could all relax, because we were all going crazy. Who made me think I was doing ok. Who offered me his per diem when we arrived in the middle of nowhere in Tunisia in case I hadn't gotten anything to eat. Just the sweetest man. The sweetest man, and who made me feel ok about being in this weird movie, being a weird character. The last time I saw him when I was working with his son Matthew in a play called Dangerous Corner, and he came to see it. He came backstage and we chatted and all that. A nice man. A nice man.

He was 86, and he's dead. And he left.. real immortality. These movies that he did, including Star Wars, but the rest of the stuff he did, will now because of the electronic medium go on forever and ever and ever. As long as there is a human race, they will be looking at Alec playing all these things. It's great.

TFN: There's also his books...

AD: His books. Yes! And his naughty sense of humor. It was very wicked.

TFN: I love his books because they gave us a different side... they gave us a side of him [the audience] may not see. You always see a certain image of an actor...

AD: Oh, when he was acting, he was a very different person. But always... always... a gentleman. A superb [person]... The one sadness for me - even when he was alive - was that in all his generosity to me, he never let me buy dinner.

TFN: Not once, in all the years you knew each other?

AD: He was a very generous man. I would have liked to have bought him dinner.

TFN: One last question. One of the things you joke about, in the Wonder Column, are Ewoks. What is your favorite way to prepare Ewok?

AD: Ah.. That's tricky. They've got to be fresh. So a good time is to drive along the freeway just after dawn, because then they're fresh.

TFN: Yes...

AD: Road-kill. Ok... the stringy bits, you leave by the roadside. Then you put them in a pot with some Kiwi Fruit. Do you know the Kiwi Fruit? Actually, the enzymes in the kiwi fruit help reduce the toughness.

TFN: It's a tenderizer?

AD: It's a tenderizer. It's a natural tenderizer. Yes. So leave them for about 3 weeks with heavy-lacerated kiwi fruit. And that will generally get 25% of the toughness out of them... Then take them on a rock, and you know, just pound them, like laundry... then coat them in bread crumbs maybe, a little garlic. And a little tabasco, a little cayenne pepper. And maybe dip them in some flour, egg and bread crumbs... Cut them into strips really, because then people will have no idea this was ever an Ewok, because of what shape you're going to through out. And then you fry them in a very small amount of olive oil, just to keep them from burning. Serve them with something green. You know, I don't mean Yoda, obviously. Well, come to think of it. Nah...

TFN: A nice crisp salad...

AD: A nice crisp salad and some delicious dessert, with not a thing Ewok in it. . You made me laugh...

TFN: That was the point.

So that concluded my time with Anthony Daniels. He was gracious and warm throughout the time we spent together, and we both regretted that it was so short.

I (Helen) and TheForce.Net would like to extend our thanks to Mr. Daniels and to his assistant Beverly for all their assistance with this interview.

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