'Star Wars' star recalls his time as king of the Ewoks
05:00 AM, Apr 29, 2013
After two Star Wars movies where he was often mocked, belittled and even dismembered, the chatty protocol droid C-3PO finally ascended to his rightful throne in Return of the Jedi.
It was, of course, as a deity to a bunch of furry Ewoks, but hey, you take what you can get.
“He was a king!” says Anthony Daniels, the man underneath C-3PO’s gold outfit. “To my mind, if you’re 5 or 6 or 7, probably the Ewoks are pretty cute. Frankly at that age in my 30s? Not so much.”
In Jedi, which celebrates its 30th anniversary on May 25, C-3PO winds up on the forest moon of Endor alongside his trusty sidekick R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) as well as Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) as they attempt to bring down the force field of the powerful Imperial Death Star for an impending Rebel Alliance assault.
In the forest, however, they find that the natives are restless in this case, a bunch of furry teddy bears eager to fight for their land. But things take a turn for the positive when the Ewoks see C-3PO as a sort of god.
A scene Daniels remembers all too well is one in which C-3PO tells the Ewoks of their adventures thus far in their native tongue one of 6 million forms of communication he knows well and complete with sound effects. (Thirty years on, the actor still knows all his lines, too.)
“I was doing it in rehearsal on the set at this point and I’m talking nonsense and I’m making silly gestures and being Threepio,” Daniels recalls. “And I look up and there is Harrison Ford in his position as Han Solo and the look of utter contempt on his face for this complete twittish performance. I thought, ‘Well, it’s Threepio. That’s who it is, so deal with it, Harry!’ “
There’s also a moment where he’s acting as a translator between Solo and one of the Ewoks where the heroic smuggler taps on Threepio’s shoulder three different times in the conversation, annoying the droid.
After several tense instances between the Millennium Falcon pilot and the droid ever since the original 1977 Star Wars, their relationship finally came to a head.
“I want you to watch it because even I am super impressed. The look of venom and fury on Threepio’s face he just wants to deck Solo is quite magnificent,” says Daniels, adding that people swear he had to have used makeup to get the look on his helmet right.
But for Daniels, the key was just working out where his shoulders were.
“I had enough room to turn my head right toward him. But I turned it so fast you can’t even freeze-frame it without motion blur,” the British actor says. “You see the look of ‘Back off!’ suddenly the worm turns. You’ve got to love Threepio for those moments where he’s put up with this stuff and this human.”
Daniels also gives credit to Ford as well in that sequence and others: “Without Harrison’s performance, all the films lack a certain something.”
One of the less enjoyable memories he had about the storytelling scene was that he was nursing “the most appalling head cold,” exacerbated by the helmet he was in while playing the droid.
“I had to say to my dresser through the mask, ‘When you take the face off, you’ve got to blow my nose for me.’ Because you had no hands or anything,” Daniels says. “My loving team, I was like a babe in arms. I totally relied on them.
“So it’s a fairly miserable scene for all sorts of reasons, and the Ewoks of course sat enchanted.”