Anthony Daniels has been a staple of Star Wars since the first film premiered in 1977. The British actor brought the neurotically lovable droid C-3PO to life, and audiences adored the character ever since. Daniels has made his life and career about Star Wars as C-3PO is the majority of his acting roles.
Daniels is the only person to appear in every theatrical Star Wars film, including the 2008 Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Being part of the franchise for over 40 years, his impact on the universe is incomparable. Here are 7 facts you might not know about Anthony Daniels’ Star Wars work.
1. A Dislike of Sci-Fi
Before he met George Lucas and became involved in the most well-renowned space opera of all time, Anthony Daniels disliked science fiction. The only sci-fi film he’d seen prior was 2001: A Space Odyssey, and he hated it so much that he left the movie theater to ask for his money back.
Though, Daniels would grow to enjoy 2001 over the years. Once he was cast as C-3PO, he was told by Lucas to give the movie another chance, specifically to pay attention to the film’s artificial intelligence character, HAL 9000’s voice. Decades later, Daniels would call 2001 a masterpiece in an interview with The Independent, saying:
“It’s a brilliant film. But that was so early on in my career. It was even before I became an actor, but I was too young to enjoy it back in 1968, and I think a lot of people were. Now you look at it; it’s a masterpiece. Still, I don’t understand the end, but it was one reason not to go and see George Lucas, and now look at me 35 years later, having had in the last few years an extraordinary rethink, a revisiting of it. Because I’ve seen how much people love the thing that I and George Lucas and other people have made, and people are so overwhelming in their love and affection, that I’ve realized that I can love and be affected by it too.”
2. Turned Down George Lucas
When Daniels worked at the National Theater in London, George Lucas took a strong interest in his mime skills in particular. The C-3PO costume would be challenging to move and work in, so Lucas wanted the right person. Because of his dislike of sci-fi, Daniels initially turned down a meeting with the director, wanting to save their time.
Thanks to Daniels’ agent, he was convinced to meet with Lucas. What hooked him into joining Star Wars wasn’t the script (which he thought was incomprehensible) but a concept painting of C-3PO by artist Ralph McQuarrie.
3. A Blinding Pain
The costume piece for C-3PO was incredibly painful for Daniels to wear. Answering fan questions on his website, he described the suit during filming Episode II: Attack of the Clones as “[a] blinding pain, unless, of course, I used words like blinding pain, to describe the blinding pain I experience as the factor-50 combined with the perspiration flooding down my face and into my eyes as I cooked away inside my very personal oven!”
The Prequel film was a lighter version of the suit too. In his memoir, I Am C-3PO, he discussed the risk of potentially becoming paralyzed in his arms and hands if he continued wearing the 60-pound costume for hours. He felt increasing numbness to the point where he couldn’t unlock the front door to his house.
In an interview with the Toronto Star, Daniels noted that the lighter costume pieces did help. Still, he wanted to be clear in his memoir about his physical and mental experience:
“I thought it was time to express some of the feelings that I had not expressed before, which were very, very personal and which were quite hurtful at times. But I’ve tried to say things not in a harsh way but to say to people: It all might have been great for you, but surprisingly, it wasn’t that great for me, and it hurt me a bit. I’m sad about that, but I’ve survived long enough to get through that, and now I can write in total candor, I think.”
The painful suit almost kept him from returning to the Sequel Trilogy, letting someone's body act the part of C-3PO while he voiced over the character. As technology had advanced since A New Hope, the crew could 3D print a far more mobile and comfortable suit for the actor.
4. A Career Droid
Since the release of A New Hope, Anthony Daniels has played C-3PO over 50 times in the Star Wars properties. After the Original Trilogy, he needed to be convinced to do other projects as the droid. It’s understandable, given how painful the suit was. He was coerced to voice his role in the animated series Droids, where he also helped write C-3PO’s dialogue.
Anthony Daniels has either acted, motion-captured, or voiced C-3PO in just about every Star Wars project the character has been featured in from the shows, video games, LEGO specials, and Disney rides. Another actor, Chris Bartlett, has only recently taken over with more minor appearances in series like Lego Masters, Jimmy Kimmel, and the Oscars.
C-3PO wasn’t Daniels’ only role in Star Wars. In Episode II: Attack of the Clones, he plays the con man Dannl Faytonni, and he would reprise the character in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. In Solo: A Star Wars Story, to continue the tradition of Daniels appearing in every Star Wars film, he portrayed Tak, a thief enslaved in the spice mines of Kessel.
5. Odd Appearances
Daniels didn’t always play C-3PO just for Star Wars properties; he also portrayed the droid in various shows. Some appearances were on children’s series, like guesting on The Muppet Show or having a 4-episode stint on Sesame Street.
Other appearances were very much in the vein of the 1970s and 80s, with Daniels appearing in public service announcements for immunization and against smoking. He also filmed two Kellogg’s commercials promoting C-3PO cereal.
6. The Kenny Baker Feud
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbow on the set of Star Wars. Ironically, the two men who portrayed C-3PO and R2-D2 didn’t like each other much. Kenny Baker portrayed R2-D2 in the Original Trilogy and first brought up in 2005 that he considered Daniels the rudest man he’d ever met. He continued this sentiment in a 2009 interview, stating that Daniels made Baker feel degraded at times. Before Baker died in 2016, he would clarify in a third interview that the so-called “feud” had been entirely blown out of proportion because Daniels was like this towards everyone.
As for Daniels’ feelings toward Baker? They weren’t as harsh, but they certainly weren’t loving. In an interview with The Mirror, Daniels commented, “I never saw [Baker]. I mean, R2-D2 doesn't even speak. He might as well be a bucket.”
Much of this is because of the elaborate costume Daniels had to spend so much time donning and removing while Baker could easily slide into R2’s body to control the droid.
Still, feud or not, Daniels still paid tribute to Baker on Twitter after his passing in 2016.
7. Lord of the Rings
Star Wars wasn’t the only mystical film that Daniels would be part of. He was also the voice of Legolas Greenleaf in the classic and creepy animated The Lord of the Rings by Ralph Bakshi. Daniels was cast for his work with the BBC Drama Repertory Company along with Christopher Guard, William Squire, Michael Scholes, and John Hurt. It was one of the earliest adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels on screen, and the movie would be influential to Peter Jackson when creating his The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Daniels didn’t have any concept art of Legolas and was surprised his character was blonde. He joked on his press tour for his memoir that he would have played his character differently if he knew Legolas’ hair color.