Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Live Event: Anthony Daniels - My Life As C-3PO

Anthony Daniels - My Life As C-3PO
Hosted by Brian Herring / South Bank Centre, London / 27 October 2019

Arriving at the South Bank centre for an ostensibly literary but obviously geeky talk which coincides with the final day of London Comic-Con, it feels a bit like being trapped in a thinking man's Forbidden Planet. You get a better class of geek here. I'm no longer the nerdiest person in the room and everyone also has more acceptable levels of personal hygiene*1. It's almost enough to make up for a pint being £5.75. Well. Almost...


The faithful had gathered in the cultural centre of the capital like Ewoks to worship at the feet of old Goldenrod himself, aka Anthony Daniels - the actor behind protocol droid C-3PO. With the imminent release of the final film in the Skywalker Saga, Daniels has carpéd the diem to compile a timely memoir about his experiences in and out of the golden suit. And joining him in conversation about this venture is BB-8 operator (and far more, besides) for the new era of Star Wars movies, Brian Herring.

Brian is a fantastic host, years of puppeteering and behind the scenes work stoking a barely concealed showmanship. But after a brief introduction and resumé for the audience members who aren't already familiar with his work, Anthony joins Brian on stage. It's at this point that the crowd realises that it wasn't just the golden plating drawing the attention after all. Daniels is a natural raconteur, his reserved manner born out of politeness and wry wit, rather than self-deprecating shyness.


We start at the beginning (always a good place), with Anthony's yearning - his vocation - to be an actor, leading quickly to that day in George Lucas' casting office when the young performer first saw Ralph McQuarrie's iconic concept painting of the droids in the Tatooine desert - and the deal between Daniels and Threepio was wordlessly sealed.

Despite the theatrical setting and presentation, the show is very informal. And as structured as the conversation is, it quickly drifts organically around its subject. While the prequel films are referenced but skirted over politely, it's worth noting perhaps that Return Of The Jedi doesn't even get a mention in the first segment. All in all, you can't really condense 40 years into 40 minutes and expect everything to take equal billing.


This is a book launch of course, and the frequent plugging of the tome in question quickly becomes a self-effacing punchline. With this in mind, the anecdotes and recollections on offer don't delve too deeply into detail - this is a taster session after all (as if a single person in that room wasn't already on-side as a customer before they even sat down*2).

The time whizzes by effortlessly - an hour and a half nowhere near enough to do justice to over four decades of performance. The second half of the show (no intermission) sees the pair breaking the seal and walking out into the stepped audience area to field open questions*3. Some of these prove to be sweet if predictable, some of the better ones unanswerable in a full form given the evening's time limitations, and a couple so cynically loaded ("Do you think The Last Jedi was great or awful?") that full credit goes to Daniels for batting them aside with devastating good grace.


The evening culminates back on the stage with a big-screen presentation of the final Rise Of Skywalker trailer (with which, let's be fair, the vast majority of the room were already very familiar). While Anthony is tight-lipped here about C-3PO's fate in Episode IX, his book's publication at the end of 2019 certainly suggests the end - if not of C-3PO himself - of an era in general*4. Daniels has future projects pipelined for voicework as the protocol droid*5, but by this point we'd expect nothing less.

Always in motion is the future, and if the Disney-era has taught us anything it's that the odds of second-guessing the trajectory of Star Wars are approximately 3,720 to 1. But the one thing we can do is look back on what has been. With warmth, with wisdom, and perhaps even see a few things from a different point of view, too...

I Am C-3PO - The Inside Story is available now from:
Amazon | Waterstones | The Book People | Blackwell's

But if you have a small independent bookshop in your town, get it there instead.

*1 Yeah look, what can I tell you? They may be 'my people', but the body odour of the comic-class is a cliche because it's often true. Try spending more than twenty minutes in Forbidden Planet on a Saturday afternoon, really. #NotAllNerds [ BACK ]

*2 That said, although there were copies of the book on sale out in the foyer, this wasn't a signing session. And the harsh lesson of economics is that without these bearing an autograph or inscription, it's as easy to wait four days until the official publication date and buy it more cheaply from Amazon. Hey, I don't make the rules. [ BACK ]

*3 For the record, your humble correspondent did not raise his hand to ask a question. He'd already proffered three absolute belters (quite frankly) via Brian Herring's request on Twitter and felt sure that this avenue would form its own section of the show. As it turns out, it didn't. So ultimately one has to conclude that if these weren't deemed worthy of separate inclusion or working into conversation, then they probably weren't meant to be answered anyway. Honestly, I'm wasted on this planet. But I digress.
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*4 The evening's closing music was the victory celebration from the 1997+ versions of Return Of The Jedi. IE not Yub-Nub. As is right since Victory Celebration been the canonical end to the movie for 22 years now, and it's about time Ian Disney got that into his skull.
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*5 Earlier, Anthony referred to his voicework on "wonderful animation" in the dark times between the original and prequel trilogies, by the way. He means Droids. He's saying Droids is wonderful. See? I fucking well told you it's not just me who thinks that.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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