‘Star Wars’ tour energizes C-3PO actorWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
Sci-fi novelist Philip K. Dick once asked if androids dream of electric sheep. Since Anthony Daniels has performed as the “Star Wars” droid C-3PO for more than 30 years, it is fair to wonder: Does the actor ever dream as C-3PO?
“I have never dreamed as Threepio,” the British actor, 63, said during a Nov. 24 phone interview from Ottawa. “But since the concert tour started, I have woken up with ‘Star Wars’ music in my head.”
Toledoans will experience the full force of “Star Wars” music on Dec. 1, when “Star Wars in Concert” plays at the Lucas County Arena.
“Maybe for that one night, they should call it the ‘George Lucas Arena,’” said Daniels, who added that while he is familiar with Toledo, Spain, this will be his first visit to Toledo, Ohio.
The slender, soft-spoken actor appeared in all six “Star Wars” films, recorded radio plays of the movies, visits with fans at “Star Wars” conventions and has provided the voice for three different animated series. He has appeared in costume at the Academy Awards, filmed episodes of “The Muppet Show” and “Sesame Street” and seen his character on cereal boxes, carved in soap and in scores of plastic incarnations. But he says this current “rock star” tour may be the highlight of his C-3PO career.
The concert features a symphony orchestra and choir playing composer John Williams’ film scores, as edited scenes from the moves are shown on a three-story-high screen. Daniels narrates the production.
“Star Wars in Concert” travels with an exhibit of costumes and props, original copies of Williams’ handwritten score and videos from the Skywalker Ranch vaults.
Daniels said audience reaction has been “invigorating and amazing. I’ve been having a wonderful, joyous time.”
Daniels said the concert is a celebration of “Star Wars,” music and family.
“Across the nation, across the world, people just go on loving ‘Star Wars,’” he said. “Don’t ask me why. Even George doesn’t quite understand why. We were together at the opening for ‘Dreamgirls’ in New York the other night, and he was saying how thrilled he was that this tour is working out so well. This is a new way of celebrating his films. It brings families together for a unique experience.”
The actor said he knows the concert will be many people’s introduction to live classical music, and he hopes the experience will excite them about the arts. He said as part of the show, images of musicians as they perform are shown on the big screen.
Daniels said Williams’ “Star Wars” score may have been commissioned for movies, but it should be considered “classical music.”
“Beethoven got paid to write music. Mozart got paid to write music. Artists have always needed to be paid by somebody. In this case, it was George Lucas who could pay John Williams, who spent years of his life writing this score,” he said. “I can say this music is classical, because I am there each night, studying this music. It’s not just Darth Vader’s march, but the tremendous orchestration, various soloists and sections talking to each other, answering each other, overwhelming each other, subtly playing underneath, weaving the bedrock that you hear under the main tier. There is an absolutely lyrical violin solo in the Princess Leia theme. It is a thrill; I hear it every night and discover new things. This is a serious concert, but you won’t know it because it says ‘Star Wars’ in front of it.”
Although Daniels has to act in character each night, the rigid synchronization of the concert’s effects limits his ability to improvise.
“I am working with a live audience, and just a little bit, I can nuance my delivery to their reactions. But a lot of my words key in effects and video playbacks, so it’s an incredibly rehearsed performance,” he said.
“Plus, there is a live television mix showing me and the orchestra, so my eyes are like 60 feet wide on the screen. For an actor who played behind a gold mask for all these years, America is certainly getting a face full of … my face.”
Daniels said Williams has been working on a harp concerto and has not yet seen the concert, but contributed new segues to the music for this show.
Christmas in the stars
This is not the first time “Star Wars” has brought Daniels into the music scene. In 1980, he recorded “Christmas in the Stars,” a holiday album which featured C-3PO singing new and traditional carols. Daniels worked on the album with a young Jon Bon Jovi and Maury Yeston, who later won Tony awards for the scores of “Nine” and “Titanic.”
“I remember that well,” Daniels said. “I was rehearsing a play in London, so I would take the
9 a.m. Concorde to New York, record all day, got up the next day, caught the 3 p.m. Concorde back to London. It was a weird experience, recording ‘What Can You Get a Wookie for Christmas When He Already Owns a Comb?’”
Daniels said an earlier musical experience involved working with live orchestras.
“I conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, as C-3PO, in full costume, at the Albert Hall, and later the Boston Symphony,” Daniels said. “They were truly the greatest nights of my life. And I have seen John Williams in action at Abbey Road, so I’ve been around this music for a long time.”
In the context of his entire “Star Wars” career, Daniels said the concert tour ranks near the top.
“I adored ‘The Muppet Show’ and ‘Sesame Street’ experiences, but in the last few years … well, I was reticent about what I was doing with my life and art,” he said. “But I had an experience a few years ago with a huge number of fans in front of me, and I realized, they get something from this, a collective joy and thrill from ‘Star Wars,’ something I’ve never felt a part of; because I am in them, I never got to experience them as a filmgoer. The scales fell from my eyes, and I realized there is an enormous love and joy for ‘Star Wars,’ people who love the depth and intricacy of it. If I am a little part of that, I get a little part of that enthusiasm, and that is a really good feeling. This is the biggest thing I have done since that epiphany, so ‘Star Wars in Concert’ is the pinnacle of this experience.”
The Force is with him
Daniels has more C-3PO on the horizon, as he is working a new version of “Star Tours” at Walt Disney World, providing a voice for the “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” TV series and is in discussions about taking “Star Wars in Concert” to other cities and countries. More than 30 years after “Star Wars” debuted, Daniels exhibits no resentment or second-guessing about his career path under the gold mask.
“I’ve lived long enough to get over that,” he laughed. “Playing C-3PO, wearing that suit, is not the experience. Creating him, being him, is. This concert tour is a wonderful leap. I am narrating, acting, living it live.
“I admit that at times, C-3PO just bursts out of me. Like from ‘The Exorcist,’ or ‘Alien,’ he just bursts out of my chest. I am very fond of him; I believe he has qualities that are very attractive, very amusing. He can be irritating, but he is fully rounded. I like people being fond of him; he is a very good friend of mine, and therefore anyone who is a friend of his is a friend of mine. I am very proud to be him.”
Daniels said the concert experience has brought one puzzling realization: “John Williams has written themes for so many of the characters, but he never has written a theme for Threepio,” he said. “The next time I see him, I am going to tell him, ‘I have a bone to pick with you’ and ask him, ‘Why not?’”