TORONTO – In the nearly four decades Anthony Daniels has been playing droid C-3PO in the “Star Wars” films, he’s never been able to do one simple task while in costume – until now.
“For the first time in this movie, for the very first time, Threepio picks up something very small,” the 69-year-old English actor said of the highly anticipated “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” in theatres next Friday.
“I’ve never been able to do that before. Before, they’ve always been these club hands that had no relation to the size of mine, and finally I said, ‘This is hugely frustrating not to be able to articulate,’ so they go, ‘Well, we’ll make some new hands.’
“So for the first time – watch for this moment, it’s that pivotal point of the movie, absolutely – I pick up something very small. I won’t tell you what it is.”
Daniels is the only actor to have worked on every instalment of the epic space drama. For the first film in 1977, his gold droid suit was created with materials including glass fibre.
But for “The Force Awakens,” director/co-writer J.J. Abrams and the team used slightly different materials, including 3-D printing.
“Looks the same but it enabled us to make little nuanced changes to it so it is easier for me to wear,” said Daniels. “It’s not brilliant, never will be, but in changing it, it made me realize how brilliant the original suit was.”
“The Force Awakens” is set 30 years after the events of “Return of the Jedi.” Other franchise veterans in the cast include Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. New cast members include Lupita Nyong’o, Adam Driver, and Oscar Isaac.
Abrams, director of the 2009 “Star Trek” reboot and its 2013 sequel, is taking the franchise helm from creator George Lucas. The plan is for a new trilogy, but Daniels wouldn’t say if he’ll be in the next two instalments.
“We wait to see next week,” he teased. “Stay tuned.”
Daniels had high praise for Abrams and was even wearing robot-print socks the director gave him.
“J.J. brought his original, childlike enthusiasm that he first remembered on seeing it way back when he was 11 years old,” said Daniels, “and I think he induced that enthusiasm in everybody else.”
Daniels also got a thrill seeing the new cast members joining an iconic franchise they knew as kids.
“Suddenly a lot of people who joined the crew for this film are doing something they never thought they’d get to do – futz around the Millennium Falcon or stand next to C-3PO or meet the new baddies,” he said.
“They knew the world and now they were a part of it.”
Daniels said Abrams was “very clear that he wanted in this film to keep CGI, computer graphic stuff, green screen stuff, to a minimum.”
C-3PO “is not in any way CGI,” he added, noting it takes human skill to bring out the essence of the character.
And for all the new things his character is now able to do thanks to modern materials, it’s clear Daniels has a certain nostalgia for the early, low-budget days of “Star Wars.”
“There were elements in the early ‘Star Wars’ that I loved,” he said. “R2-D2 would often be on a piece of string that people were pulling. If the camera doesn’t look at it, you don’t see the guy with the string pulling it along, and I like things like that.”
“The Landspeeder had mirrors at 45 degrees, so instead of seeing the wheels of the car, you were seeing the sand… reflected in the mirror.”
“It’s a magician’s trick.”