Besides the movies, you also did various other Star Wars-related things: the Droids animation series, commercials, a radio play, you wrote the Wonder column for Star Wars Insider Magazine…too many things to mention. Why this devotion for Star Wars?
I’ve been very lucky that the character C-3PO lends himself to communicate with people. Threepio is a communicator, he lives and longs to speak. I share this: I’ve been the only actor to appear in all six Star Wars movies and part of that leads me to want to share the good experiences, and some of the bad ones, with the fans. I can write, I can speak…why not do this, then?
I mentioned the Wonder Column you wrote for Star Wars Insider, why did you quit writing this?
I guess I ran out of nice things to say. (grins)
Does that make you a bitter man?
(Thinks for a very long time) No. (Smiles)
Did you have any problems with the Insider?
Oh no! Dan Madsen [past publisher of the Insider] is amazing, he does a great job for the magazine. Fantastic person he is…Dan organized the first Star Wars Celebration, he is superb.
I see you have the 12-inch C-3PO figure with you. There are dozens of C-3PO related items. You must have a favorite item.
Yes! It’s the beanie baby. Unfortunately I didn’t bring it with me. (Picks up the 12 inch C-3PO figure and says: “Why didn’t I bring it with me?”)
It’s funny, it’s witty. My least favorite item is the cello tape dispenser; it’s disgusting!
So, you did like the Underoos? (Editors note: underwear with C-3PO’s image)
(Begins to laugh heavily) You really know what you’re talking about! Yeah, I’ve done some really stupid things like the C-3PO breakfast cereal; a truly disgusting product, it tasted so sweet.
It wasn’t available in the Netherlands.
You’re very lucky. I have the last remaining box on earth…unopened…and one day, when I get really bitter, I will go to a high place and open it…(with a deep, dark voice) and destroy the planet… The world will crack when I open it. The box is beautiful, what’s inside is, well… C-3PO has lent himself to many products, some good, some bad. My proudest thing is that I have been in an anti-smoking commercial
Well, I can recall of photo of you, that was made in 1976 in Tunisia while filming A New Hope, in which you are smoking while being in the C-3PO costume!
Yeah, someone stuck a cigarette in the mouth of C-3PO’s helmet. Bad move. I’m very anti-smoking — children shouldn’t smoke. The commercial was for the American Health Department. It shows C-3PO, who sees smoke, and finds out R2-D2 is on fire. He explains that smoking is bad for your health.
Cyborg vs Cyborg Relations. Suppose there’s a fight between the Terminator (a Cyborg) and Threepio (the Cyborg Relations)…
Threepio wouldn’t dream of fighting. It the dumbest, stupidest most moronic thing to do. Unfortunately, we have a huge example in the world right now.
Well, Threepio has been in some fights.
Yes, in the background. However, in Episode II…
You were using a gun!
But, with a battle droid-body! You see, Threepio is a nice guy. I’m his dark side. I always felt he wanted to have a gun. I talked about this with George. So, there I am: in an empty sand-pit with blue-screen — and there is only me walking towards the camera with the gun. I had my Threepio helmet on, the rest of my body would be done digitally. They shouted “Action!” and I went [mimics using a gun]. But it didn’t work, so I went doing [acts like he is shooting and makes a rifle noise]. I said my lines in the dubbing studio, when I said it, everyone including George fell apart. [Makes a Scarface imitation] “Die motherf*ckers!” (Laughs heavily). To hear C-3PO say this….the camera shook! But, Threepio felt a lot better. So, no fighting. Threepio would explain to the Terminator that maybe he should think about his behavior.
On your website there is a section called The Dark Side, about people that forge your autograph to make some money. Any specific reason why you included this section on your site?
When I was creating the site, I was thinking what should be on it. It could include things I wrote, (it has) photos of me…and things that fans have done. It should also have information. I was very surprised when I found out that people forged. I was shocked, I was naive.
What shocks me is that Star Wars is a wonderful phenomenon but around the edges of it, there are many sleazy people: Sleazy fans, sleazy forgers, sleazy organizers of events. It spoils the whole thing.
Suppose you run into a forger of your autograph at a convention. What would you do?
I would ask them loudly why they are selling a fake. I was a witness for the FBI two years ago. They showed me a picture of my autograph and asked me if it was real. The forger got three years for forging loads of autographs from many people.
Things like this spoil the whole joy of Star Wars. Somebody once stole a check of mine from the post…the only thing they didn’t change was the signature! (grins)
You are one of the few actors that actually has something like this on a website…
Well, most actors don’t care. It doesn’t affect them. I get hate-mail saying: “How do you know it’s not your signature?” I don’t do many conventions. I get asked a lot, but I chose not to attend many. Maybe that’s why they forge?
Any specific reason for not attending many conventions?
Several. Maybe someday I’ll share them. There are some badly organized conventions. They haven’t thought about how to entertain the visitors.
In 1976, when A New Hope was filmed, you had to wear the C-3PO costume for the first time. The costume hurt a lot back then. For the prequels, you had to wear it again. Did they change it so that it didn’t hurt anymore?
Very little, it still hurts. (looks sad) Don Bies moved the holes in the neck a bit, so I didn’t choke easily. He also made the chest a little bigger, because I work out. Besides that, it’s exactly the same costume. They’re not gonna spend loads of money on a new costume!
Why? You’re one of the principal characters!
Producers like to save money.
Even when they’re called Rick McCallum?
Especially when they’re called Rick McCallum.
So, what are you doing right now besides acting?
I just got back from Ohio, there’s been a concert where they took several pieces of music from every movie. I stand there in my gold jacket, with the book in my hands and start off with: ‘A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…’ (makes exploding sound). And I tell the whole story, with the music playing. It is magical. We had 24,000 people in Ohio, 2 nights in a row. For me, to be there, is just amazing. Also, I’ll be going to Boston. The Science Museum there have an exhibition: ‘Star Wars: where science meets imagination’. I will be there with scientists who have become a scientist because of Star Wars. They make machines that go to the moon to explore and I want to talk with them about this, but they just want to talk about Star Wars (grins). I’ve also been involved in the exhibition in Japan; the Art of Star Wars, which I hosted. So, there are loads of spin-offs that have more to do with the technical part than with the movies itself. 3PO and I share the ability to present. I’ll be opening the gala in Boston, where George will be the special guest. We are gonna have fun.
Who’s your favorite actor?
Alec Guinness………died. (Thinks for a long time) Jimmy Smits. Wonderful! He was very upset in the last movie, because he gave the order to have 3PO’s memory wiped. He said: “I don’t wanna say this!” He was very touching, he really liked 3PO. Hayden Christensen. Just absolutely delightful. Ewan McGregor, wonderful. We had great fun and laughs.
Anyone from the old trilogy?
You can’t ask me who’s my favorite! Harrison (Ford) is the big star now. Mark (Hamill) was always very easy to be with. Loads of good people.
You mentioned the fact that Threepio’s memory is wiped. In Episode I, we find out that Anakin built him. Back when the prequels didn’t exist, it was a mystery where Threepio came from. Now, this mystery is gone. Do you think that’s a shame?
Not at all…quite the opposite! I was quite shocked when I found out. I had a meeting with George and he said “You are made by Anakin.” I was thinking that’s really nice, I always got along fine with Alec Guinness. Two days later I realised it was the other person. (Laughs) I think it’s a neat twist that a good character like Threepio is made by a big baddie. I always thought that Threepio came off a production line. Knowing Anakin and knowing what happens to him makes Threepio even more interesting. He doesn’t even know! (points at the Threepio figure he is holding). He would self-destruct if he knew. So, don’t tell him.
You once appeared in The Muppet Show…
…The Muppet Show was one of the best spin-offs. For the first time, I felt like I was on a set where people understood how it was for an actor to wear a difficult costume, because most Muppeteers are in awkward situations to animate the character. I also felt for the first time I was part of a team that really got that. To be working with Kermit, Miss Piggy and the others was such a remarkable treat, as I loved the show. They also asked me to be in Sesame Street in New York. I wanted to stay there for the rest of my life, as that team consists of the most lovely people who love what they are doing and do it superbly well. These two things are really great memories.
You even got to tap-dance.
That nearly killed me. I had a choreographer, we practiced some things and I did it well. By the sixth time I did it, and mind that my costume was moving as well, I must admit I was a little tired. As with all tap-dance sequences, the sound was put in later. The taps you hear are the special effects guy tapping on a tin tray. That was movie magic.
How was it to work with Jim Henson?
He is still a real legend. The curious thing is that you forget that you’re working with Jim Henson and Frank Oz because you are working with Kermit and Miss Piggy. And I have to tell you, Miss Piggy is a total bitch. Off-screen she cannot restrain her mouth. Although Frank Oz is there, you don’t look at him, you look at the pig. It is some kind of magic and I’m glad the company is still going. So, I’m very delighted to have been a part of all that.
Rick McCallum said that you were going to be the only actor from the movies that will be in the TV series.
People always want to know about the series, which surprises me because they just had six of the greatest movies ever. Haven’t they had enough?
I want more!
You want more? Well, it’s magic for me that people want more. It’s a job for me and keeps me in my relationship with 3PO. I’m fond of him and one day we will part, which will be sad as one of us will be destroyed in one way or another. He’s been an enormous part of my life, but sad things happen. I have just been doing new episodes of the Clone Wars 3D series, which has an exciting script. I don’t know what the airdates will be. But about the TV series, it would interesting to know where it is going, but there are no details yet…so watch this space.
Interview: October 2006
Last year you told me you may quit acting. Any change in this?
I think it’s important that as you get older you work something out. You’re not gonna live forever. Star Wars will always be somewhere in the galaxy, until mankind disappears and then the cockroaches will work something out…some digital medium. My work, George’s work, Harrison’s work…THAT is immortality. There are a lot of other things to do, like travelling…although Star Wars has taken me around the world. Still, that is often for business. So, I don’t have to work all the time and there is loads to do.
On the Behind the Magic CD-ROM there is an item about you wandering through the forest of Crescent City while filming Return if the Jedi. You fell asleep behind a tree, and when you woke up they were filming the scene in which Leia tells Han that Luke is her brother….
You can read this on my website. I dozed off and woke up hearing her say, “He’s my brother.” I thought I’d better keep it still, because it would kill me. Although you get the script, there are always pages that they don’t want anyone to see because then there would be certain problems with the actors or people in the cast telling things to the press. This is stupid and something no professional should do. So, they worked on a “need to know” basis. As [it was,] I didn’t need to know that information. Generally, I had an idea of what was going on, but I didn’t think about it. I was kind of amused they were brother and sister, just as in years to come after that when George told me I was made by their father.
What is your favorite memory regarding the movies?
I had to make a relationship with Artoo, a tin box that said nothing. Then one day when we were filming the road to Jabba for Return of the Jedi, George surprised me. He was bent and making beeping sounds, pretending to be Artoo and following me. That was a fun, joyful, childish moment.
How is George in real life?
George is…what you see is what you get. He is very private and probably very surprised by his success. He hears the criticism on his movies and he minds that, but he also hears the applause and he appreciates that. I don’t think he’s someone that has a big circle of friends, but that’s very difficult when you are in the situation of being incredibly rich, famous and private. He gives a huge amount to the audience. His work is on the screen and he’s running his empire called Lucasfilm. I like him. I have always liked him and that’s the end of it really. There is a lot of criticism on him due to the fact that he continuously releases the movies again on video, DVD…
I understand why people say that, but he is not the only one doing that. Nobody HAS to buy the new stuff, and that’s what I always say to people. Anybody milking a situation is unattractive. There are even actors doing it.
What do you mean by that?
Well, I attend some events.
One or two a year….while others are at almost every event all over the world.
Yes, and that is their choice. As long as people buy their autograph, then there is a request. I do find it uncomfortable that there are multiple releases, but some people want that and the choice is theirs…and that choice should be made more often. I will get shot for this, but it’s nice to be honest.
It is said that you weren’t a sci-fi fan before Star Wars and even walked out on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yeah, 2001! Boring! I wasn’t the only one. I watched a programme on Kubrick last night and a lot of people found it tiresome, boring and incomprehensible. In years to come I watched it again, George gave me a print I could watch because he was surprised I didn’t see the ending. When I saw it again I thought it was an extraordinary film.
What is your favorite sci-fi movie…..besides the Star Wars trilogy?
It is probably a film that some people didn’t know called Silent Running. It’s my favorite for two reasons: one is that when they were creating R2-D2, there were many pin-ups of Huey, Dewey and Louie on the walls of the special effects shop, because those three robots [in Silent Running] were created by amputees. So, these stocky little box-robots were actually men walking on their fists. They had an enormous personality. This was one of the genesis of Artoo. As a film, it is tragic. A beautiful sad tragedy. I will admit that…this year I was the host of the Robot Hall of Fame ceremony in Pittsburgh. I was inducted last year and now I was the host and I hope to be on the panel next year. My suggestion will be Huey, Dewey and Louie. It would be nice if people would vote for them.
It is said that it was the legendary Mel Blanc who suggested you to George Lucas.
I don’t think it was Mel Blanc. George was trying to find a voice to replace the one I had done through a radio transmitter. He got bogged down by Richard Dreyfuss, who was one of the people that tried to make a voice. It may have been Mel who said “Anthony’s voice is really good, why don’t you keep it?” And, George kept it. It wasn’t that I was brilliant, it is just that Threepio is Threepio. There isn’t a choice. If they hadn’t used it, I wouldn’t have been a part of the things outside the movies as the voice is an integral part of the character.
In 1978, your footprints were cast at Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Were you in the suit that day?
Yes, it was me. It was one of the scariest experiences, because there were thousands of people over there on a very hot day. They were out in the blinding sunshine. They had to arrange a lot regarding the cement. When I walked out, I was surrounded by people who were pushing and shoving me. The weird thing is that when you go to see the footprints…
Well, I have been there.
You saw the prints? Well, the shoes I wore in the movie had a flat sole. For the [cement] prints, Rick Baker, who is now the most famous effects artist in the world, made some special soles, so they really [left] a footprint. Then, they had to guard it all night, because other people would come to have their hand printed. I am amused they are still there and it was absolutely me. Sometimes, I go and stand there next to the prints and people ignore me, so I go away.
Can you give us your thoughts in as few words as possible regarding the following people: Harrison Ford
It wasn’t until I saw the Special Editions that I remembered what Harrison brought to that first movie. He gave it a punch and a spark and a wit…a bleak observation on the whole. The film would have been very different without him.
Carrie….as we all know was a little crazy in these days and wasn’t always quite right for the first takes. I am delighted that she has grown into the most delightful middle-aged woman. She has become quite a remarkable person.
(Starts laughing for a long, long time and walks away) Natalie had a difficult job in Episode I, where she was this geisha doll — which some people didn’t get because her personality couldn’t shine through. Fortunately, she could drop the silly speaking and the makeup and became a vibrant part of it all.
You’re not very positive about her because of your reaction?
No, not at all! (Laughs) (Editors note: Anthony didn’t mean he isn’t positive but quite the opposite.)
Hayden is, what can I say, one of the most delightful people. Certainly, the most delightful actor you could meet. As a person he is the most gentle, thoughtful, sensitive, intelligent, brave young man. I wish him enormous success. I think he had a difficult time on the films, because he had to take over this sort of “bridge” between the young boy and what goes on. It wasn’t easy for him or for George, but in the end, when he becomes Vader, people get it. And then, there’s Ewan McGregor, who is just amazing.