Anthony Daniels

Anthony Daniels

These days, many classical actors dip their toes into the realm of fantasy movies. Back in 1977 this was no different, but the late Sir Alec Guinness was not the only in one in the classic film Star Wars.

Playing the golden robot C3PO, a near constant presence in the Star Wars movies, Anthony Daniels in one stroke cemented his place in the hearts of sci-fi nuts everywhere.

Now, he returns to the realm of George Lucas as the narrator of Star Wars in Concert, a mix of orchestral music, footage played on a giant screen and one man filling in the blanks.

As the tour comes to Britain after a gruelling time across America, FemaleFirst talks to Anthony Daniels about the concerts and going to a galaxy far, far away.

- So, for Star Wars in Concert you play the role of the narrator, what exactly is that?

I do, the sort of story teller, and I will tell you immediately that I do not wear my gold costume.

I’m in a very nice suit and I come out on stage at regular intervals during the course of the evening and tell the story of Star Wars complete from end to end, which is not the way George Lucas shot them.

There are prequels, sequels and it’s a bit confusing. There is not confusion here, we start off with the galaxy as being a wonderful place and then it is corrupted. We watch this little boy growing up into a handsome young man, he goes a bit strange and then becomes Darth Vader in a black helmet.

He’s had two kids though, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, and they ultimately defeat him and he is redeemed and the evil emperor is dead and the galaxy goes back to being a great place.

That’s the basic story, but it’s also about the destiny of all the characters. The little boy is destined as we watch him to grow into this personification of evil and it has been my destiny, strangely and curiously against everything to become the narrator of this show, to be C3PO to narrate the show as myself and at times of course 3PO’s personality bounces out across the stage much to the amusement of the audience.

We’ve done 58 shows if you count the original and what I like is that we are coming back to England and Europe. We started off at the O2 Arena on London back in April and now I’ve been across America. You know the films were made extensively in England in various studios so it seems right to bring the show back here and share it up and down the country, not just in London.

- So what made you come back and do this part?

Well, they asked me for the first part and I was reluctant to begin with because I think the music stands up on its own. But they explained to me that I was being short sighted and stupid and that this was bigger than a concert.

The first premise is that it is a concert, with a wonderful orchestra, The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and a choir and it is to honour John’s music which is as big a character in the films as Obi Wan Kenobi or Darth Vader, John’s music is just as iconic.

In a way people don’t really hear the music, they just accept it as part of the story or the scenery. So the idea behind Star Wars in Concert is that it basically honours John’s music and his music is so wonderfully written that night after night the orchestra come of stage thrilled because they’ve had a real work.

Apparently every instrument gets a good turn, I try and hear different sections every night and also the orchestra pick up on the enthusiasm and the ovations from the audience. We have a tremendously hard working evening but we are re-inspired by the audience every night.

Along with the music, they’ve added these absolutely wonderful edited sections woven out of all six movies so they help you understand the story in a non-linear way, but there I am constantly coming in and saying what happened next.

Some of it’s so serious, some of it’s light hearted some of the music is hugely threatening and some of it’s utterly beautiful or funny like the cantina band or the Darth Vader theme.

We did a demonstration in Pittsburgh where I teach and the students came in and the conductor had different sections play their piece and demonstrating the complexity of John’s music and it was a absolutely fascinating and we’re hoping in some way to do that again because the students were thrilled.

So you can tell that I’m having a good time.

- So what can you tell us about Star Wars in Concert itself?

It’s kind of hard to describe because I think the elements are greater than anything put together. The live camera work shows you just how the live orchestra is working, how it weaves together and shows my face, 60 feet across, telling you a story very personally.

There are other sections I don’t want to talk about them because I want them to be a surprise.

Then the bonding within the audience itself, I feel that very much as when you have twenty thousand people sitting listening very quietly and intently you know that this is a serious artistic enterprise.

That audience is made up of family groups from three to ninety three; it’s made up of Star Wars fans in costume it’s made up of people who’ve never heard of Star Wars and realise this is the opportunity to find out about it. It’s made up of people who love live orchestral classic sound.

The sound system that helps us with this is put together by one of the top people in Los Angeles so that everybody can hear it beautifully without distortion. The whole thing put together is really rather magical.

- So, with so many tour dates, has it been really hard?

It’s been quite gruelling, that’s why I sound like I sound now, I’m going to have to lie down because I’ve got back.

But they’ve made it very, very comfortable and the crew travelled mostly by plane although I have a beautiful tour bus. It’s rather like being on a yacht; we have big bedrooms, beautiful wooden floors and bathroom, kitchen, sitting room and a wonderful driver.

Nether the less, going to sleep on a bus and arriving at a hotel at 3 of 4 in the morning and going back to bed has been gruelling but it’s been enormous fun. Huge fun and a challenge.

One night I had to stay up riding shotgun with the driver because there was a snowstorm that was so big and really quite scary and I’m not too sure we should have done the trip but we made it because he couldn’t see the road and I was watching one side, he was watching the other trying not bump into things.

And seeing huge trucks having slid off and car overturned was a great experience looking back on it, but at the time it was a bit hairy.

- Any other stories from the tour?

In Ohio we nearly cancelled the show because of enormous snow falls, but then about three and a half thousand people managed to make it through and it was a total bonding experience.

I mentioned it on stage and they were glad that I acknowledged their effort in getting there and the same with the orchestra so we’ve had some exciting times.

- You’re the only actor who’s appeared in all six Star Wars movies, how does that make you feel?

It’s weird, considering that I didn’t want to be in the first one and here I am now, kind of the voice of Star Wars which is a huge honour.

It’s actually a huge responsibility because people say ‘are you nervous in front of all these people’. I’m tense because I don’t want to mess it up and mess up their evening, if I make a mistake it’s kind of like a scratch on a record.

That’s where my tension comes from and also I don’t who they are until I walk out and stage, all these thousands of people, how they’re going to react.

The honour and responsibility are kind of equal really, but it’s very exciting and I feel hugely lucky in being offered the part and hugely clever for accepting it instead of turning it down.

- So, what convinced you to take the part in the end?

It was actually a painting of character; again it was an artistic element of Star Wars and there was something peculiar in the expression of the face that looked out from the face of this metal man that just touched my soul.

It was quite weird, vulnerable, melancholy and slightly lonely and it spoke to me. I think that the character has those qualities in the film thankfully and it’s one of the things that makes him nice to be with. Bit of a pain to act because of the suit and everything, but as a personality he’s pretty good.

- So how was it acting in the suit then?

I had to use a lot of lateral thinking a lot of improvisation, given that R2 made no sounds at all I was improvising a conversation every time with this metal box. I kind of got used to that I suppose and I just used to learn the entire pages of script because, you know, I had to make it up.

I had to work out ways of creating an expression apparent on 3PO’s face without having a face I had to use what gestures available to me to create an impression that all the emotions were there. I had to rehearse like crazy because I couldn’t see, so I had to guess a lot of things.

It was, as any actor would say, a challenge.

- You’ve also acted as a ‘creative designer’ on attractions from London to Dubai, can you tell us a little more about that?

I have an interest in producing/directing and so on. I’ve worked at the London dungeon doing Vlad the Impaler, doing Anne Boleyn all over the place. Rather sad that Dubai’s having a bad time but I was there during the beginning of the great growth of it.

So I do have another life besides 3PO. As well as my teaching at Carnegie Mellon University which is in the entertainment technology division, so I talk about production and effects and writing and just common sense really in the entertainment world, so I do try and vary my life as much as possible, along with The Guinness Taste Sensation which travels across the country.

So I’m not just a Star Wars man but right now I am because Star Wars in Concert is pretty much filling my days.

- Do you enjoy teaching then?

Oh hugely, and when we were lucky enough to do the show in Pittsburgh and 150 students came and we did them a special, pre-bash back stage tour, explained the technology, talked to them about the orchestra and whatever, because I had to cancel one of my sessions because of the tour, and they loved it.

Of course working with students is always a thrill because you tend to learn more from them than they learn from you. So I’m lucky that I have all sorts of various hats that I can put on at any one time.

- Would you have gone into teaching as a career if you hadn’t been an actor?

Oh no, when I was at drama school elements of the course were to do with teaching. I’ve quite a lot of teaching in my life but I couldn’t do it as a career partly because within how many weeks I would of used up all my ideas.

So I can whizz in say go ‘Blah’ and go away again before they realise I’m a total fake.

- Does it bother you that you didn’t start acting at an earlier age?

I minded at the time, because it was the only thing I ever wanted to do and various pressures stopped me doing it.

However, if I look back now, the opportunities that came to me because I was older, I think I won the BBC Radio Drama Prize because I was older than the average student and possibly slightly more mature.

If I had taken up acting at an earlier age would I have been the same person who me George Lucas, one never knows.

Now I think maybe, as Star Wars in Concert’s all about destiny, maybe it was my destiny to wait and to then achieve something really rather special. So I think now, looking back now it was all for the good. Didn’t seem like it at the time and I was a bit sad about it.

- So what’s next for Anthony Daniels?

I’m going away for Christmas tomorrow to France and when I get back I’ll be going to Los Angeles to work on Star Tours, which is the Disney Star Wars ride which after 23 years we’re remaking and it’s pretty spectacular.

Then I will do some more episodes of the Clone Wars which is hugely popular and a lot of kids come dressed as Clone Troopers to the concert.

Then we’re touring the whole of Europe and probably Asia and other parts of the world. After that, I’ll probably lie down for a while.

FemaleFirst  Cameron Smith

These days, many classical actors dip their toes into the realm of fantasy movies. Back in 1977 this was no different, but the late Sir Alec Guinness was not the only in one in the classic film Star Wars.

Playing the golden robot C3PO, a near constant presence in the Star Wars movies, Anthony Daniels in one stroke cemented his place in the hearts of sci-fi nuts everywhere.

Now, he returns to the realm of George Lucas as the narrator of Star Wars in Concert, a mix of orchestral music, footage played on a giant screen and one man filling in the blanks.

As the tour comes to Britain after a gruelling time across America, FemaleFirst talks to Anthony Daniels about the concerts and going to a galaxy far, far away.

- So, for Star Wars in Concert you play the role of the narrator, what exactly is that?

I do, the sort of story teller, and I will tell you immediately that I do not wear my gold costume.

I’m in a very nice suit and I come out on stage at regular intervals during the course of the evening and tell the story of Star Wars complete from end to end, which is not the way George Lucas shot them.

There are prequels, sequels and it’s a bit confusing. There is not confusion here, we start off with the galaxy as being a wonderful place and then it is corrupted. We watch this little boy growing up into a handsome young man, he goes a bit strange and then becomes Darth Vader in a black helmet.

He’s had two kids though, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, and they ultimately defeat him and he is redeemed and the evil emperor is dead and the galaxy goes back to being a great place.

That’s the basic story, but it’s also about the destiny of all the characters. The little boy is destined as we watch him to grow into this personification of evil and it has been my destiny, strangely and curiously against everything to become the narrator of this show, to be C3PO to narrate the show as myself and at times of course 3PO’s personality bounces out across the stage much to the amusement of the audience.

We’ve done 58 shows if you count the original and what I like is that we are coming back to England and Europe. We started off at the O2 Arena on London back in April and now I’ve been across America. You know the films were made extensively in England in various studios so it seems right to bring the show back here and share it up and down the country, not just in London.

- So what made you come back and do this part?

Well, they asked me for the first part and I was reluctant to begin with because I think the music stands up on its own. But they explained to me that I was being short sighted and stupid and that this was bigger than a concert.

The first premise is that it is a concert, with a wonderful orchestra, The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and a choir and it is to honour John’s music which is as big a character in the films as Obi Wan Kenobi or Darth Vader, John’s music is just as iconic.

In a way people don’t really hear the music, they just accept it as part of the story or the scenery. So the idea behind Star Wars in Concert is that it basically honours John’s music and his music is so wonderfully written that night after night the orchestra come of stage thrilled because they’ve had a real work.

Apparently every instrument gets a good turn, I try and hear different sections every night and also the orchestra pick up on the enthusiasm and the ovations from the audience. We have a tremendously hard working evening but we are re-inspired by the audience every night.

Along with the music, they’ve added these absolutely wonderful edited sections woven out of all six movies so they help you understand the story in a non-linear way, but there I am constantly coming in and saying what happened next.

Some of it’s so serious, some of it’s light hearted some of the music is hugely threatening and some of it’s utterly beautiful or funny like the cantina band or the Darth Vader theme.

We did a demonstration in Pittsburgh where I teach and the students came in and the conductor had different sections play their piece and demonstrating the complexity of John’s music and it was a absolutely fascinating and we’re hoping in some way to do that again because the students were thrilled.

So you can tell that I’m having a good time.


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