There’s things people will resent, get angry about, become silent about, laugh about, wonder about, be sad about and be understanding about.
Anthony Daniels on his memoir
“Partly because you can, if you want, relive these things time, after time, after time,” Daniels says. “When Shakespeare wrote that, it truly was our revels now are ended, and goodnight. [With Star Wars] you go to work, it’s tough, but you go home and at the end of the day you say, great, goodbye, because he lives in LA, I live in London, she lives in China. You’re not in each other’s pocket.
“The movie may imply that and I’m surprised sometimes by the innocence of fans who don’t actually understand the mechanics of filming,” he adds. “So there is no great [farewell], and in a way, a better phrase would be, these revels now are ended. That [Shakespeare] guy was crap as a writer.”
Daniels’ final day of filming on The Rise of Skywalker – and as C-3PO – was January 28, 2019. The film’s producer and director J.J. Abrams made a speech on set which Daniels describes as “lovely, heartfelt [and] complimentary”.
“It was a bit like facing an execution,” Daniels adds. “It was a nice, difficult moment. Oscar [Isaac, who plays pilot Poe Dameron] also wrapped filming that day and I could not think of a better member of the cast to be with … than Oscar. He has been just an extraordinary example of what a fine actor can be.”
Though Daniels laments the loss of some of his co-stars – Harrison Ford bowed out in the seventh film The Force Awakens with the death of his character, smuggler Han Solo, and Carrie Fisher passed away after filming wrapped on the eighth film, The Last Jedi – he says there were no artistic ghosts as he walked away.
“There was no video when we started these all those years ago, but there was cinema. And back in the day, there was no cinema, and before photographs you might have had a little silhouette. How did you remember people? Locks of hair,” he says. “Now we have YouTube. I have just joined Instagram. That’s how we remember things.”
Daniels has appeared in every Star Wars film and a number of ancillary projects, from the much maligned Star Wars Holiday Special to the Star Wars radio adaptation and even the Star Tours ride at Disneyland. The original 1977 Star Wars film – made long before it was franchised into Episode IV – remains his favourite.
“Because it was so innocent, not naive, but innocent and unpretentious,” Daniels says. “Nobody had any doubts it would be a failure. We all did, the crew, and the actors certainly. But the crew didn’t understand George Lucas at all. Partly because they were English and he was American, but he was a different kind of filmmaker.
“Which would of course eventually have people asking, ‘Were we wrong?’ And we were, and I have no shame in admitting it,” Daniels adds. “You know, George’s genius was too strong a language. All the actors worked full on to be professional and the crew would sometimes pull the plug, [saying] ‘No, you’re going home now, we’re not doing any more of this crap today’.”
As an appropriate footnote to a four-decade journey, Daniels has just written his autobiography, I Am C-3PO: The Inside Story. And while they are not the words of a drowning man, per se, the net effect – having your life flash before you – is more or less the same, Daniels says.
“It didn’t flash before me, it trudged,” Daniels says, laughing. “I realised only a few days ago that I had actually put it, forever, into a irrefutable and un-retractable document. I can’t take it back. There’s things people will resent, get angry about, become silent about, laugh about, wonder about, be sad about and be understanding about.
“And it’s not all good,” Daniels adds. “And it’s not all good for two basic reasons. One, I went through some fairly shit times, as do most people in life. And the other is, it’s basically the truth. And the truth is the truth and if you’re not going to tell it then you’re telling half a story.”
Star Wars, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker opens on Thursday.
Michael Idato is the culture editor-at-large of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.