Talking With C-3PO Himself, Anthony Daniels, About Star Wars: In Concert

A few weeks back, Rocks Off had the pleasure of speaking with actor Anthony Daniels, the man in the golden suit and the physical embodiment of one of the most iconic characters in popular science fiction. Since production began in 1976 on A New Hope, better known of course as Star Wars, Daniels has been C-3PO for better or worse, through sand and sweat, through near amputation by Jawas to probable immolation at the hand of the Ewoks. His character has been in all six Star Wars films and continues to be seen today on the computer-animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars series on the Cartoon Network.

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On tour with the Star Wars: In Concert roadshow, Daniels acts as the emcee of the evening and narrates the action onscreen as John Williams' score is performed by an orchestra led by conductor Dirk Brosse. The saga of the six films has been re-cut and told in a more linear format, telling the story of Anakin Skywalker and his extended family and the personal tragedies he encounters.

At its heart, the new tale is very much about a man and his journey through life and all the choices he has to make and the repercussions of each. The tour's multi-million dollar sound and screen set-up is just icing on the cake for fans of the two trilogies, all of whom would no doubt follow this content anywhere and to any venue.

Daniels spoke with us about the rigors of the tour, his favorite selections from John Williams' epic scores, life as the golden Threepio, and gave us a glimpse into his private home life in rural France.

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Anthony Daniels in (almost) full C-3P0 costume on the Star Wars set.
Rocks Off: What exactly is your role in this new Star Wars: In Concert tour?

Anthony Daniels: Well, if you check out the website, you will see the set is enormous! You can learn a heck of a lot about it. It's an enormous, vast, huge, tall, wide set. There's also a symphony orchestra and a choir behind them, and lots of rather wondrous and startling lights and laser effects.

The conductor, Dirk Brosse stands in the middle of the orchestra on a lovely podium. They leave a little bit of the stage in front for me to come in a very nice black suit to tell the story of Star Wars from the beginning to the end. The beginning is when the galaxy was governed by a great republic to the end is when Darth Vader is forgiven.

RO: We heard the screen cost upwards of four million dollars.

AD: Probably, given that it's three stories high and 100 feet wide. It's not projected, it is made up of light emitting diodes, LED. So it's a digital picture, it comes off digitally from a hard disk. It shoots light out at the audience, a normal screen reflects light. Our LED screen gives you brilliant images, absolutely brilliant.

Besides the screen and apart from it, there are wings of black drapes woven with LED's that have digital images pushed through them so that they give a strange thin image that comes out toward the audience, which I feel envelopes them. There's also an array of special LED lighting units, and cameras that show live images of the orchestra on to the screen. The story I tell is linear, and John Williams has re-written some of his music around the new films made for the concert.

RO: So George Lucas has obviously thrown tons of money behind this thing too.

AD: Oh, it's huge. You should see the scale of it. The trucks are astounding. It's like a small army!

RO: Maybe Lucas would want to pioneer a set-up like this for other movies down the line?

AD: Well, I suppose he could do that someday. Most movie theater screens are at maximum three-thousand feet. For our scale, you need a screen like ours for a giant arena. The people in the back will have I think just as good a view as the people in the front, away from the LED drapes.

RO: How has the crowds' reaction been to all of this?

AD: We did two shows in London, and had about 12,000 people for each event. We had a standing ovation each night. For an American you probably think "Yeah, well...," but people in England don't do standing ovations unless it's incredibly special.

You can always tell the Americans in theaters, because they are the ones who stand up at the end and the English people are telling them to sit down. We save standing ovations for something very special, and we got two in two nights. I had a very broad smile on my face because that is quite an accolade.

RO: How far does the tour for the rest of the year? AD: December, and I hope to still be alive, and have a voice, and be full of energy. We go way into December and I get back just before Christmas, so I'm pretty much an American until then.

RO: How much does fan interaction come into play with this show?

AD: The audience is very much a part of the show. Their response keeps the energy flowing. It won't just be Star Wars fans coming; it will be music lovers, film lovers, people who love live orchestral sounds. So it's not totally a fan event.

One of the things I like is that if you never actually seen Star Wars, this is the point where you can come along and learn everything you need to know about the basic story. Without all the side issues and in the story we tell it's very clear, linear, and simple. You can leave knowing everything you need to know. So if you go to a party and someone says, "You know in Episode Three when..." you will have that knowledge. For people who know the movies, they will see them in a different light.

And the whole time you can recognize that the music, it's being created live for them. John Williams created these huge robust scores and marches like the Darth Vader march or the main theme, but then he made beautiful and delicate sequences for Princess Leia or strangely Jabba the Hutt, stuff that is totally at odds with his ugly personality. Lucas and Williams definitely got together and created counterpoints.

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow.

Star Wars In Concert comes to Toyota Center, 1510 Polk, 6 p.m. Sunday, October 25. Memorabilia exhibit opens at 4:30 p.m. For tickets call 866-446-8849 or see www.toyotacentertix.com.

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