One of the great gifts of the Star Wars universe is its array of colorful characters. The first movie succeeded because of its ambition, but also because it filled its strange world with characters that audiences wanted to pay money to spend time with. One of the most vividly drawn characters in the world of Star Wars is C-3PO, the colorful droid that rarely feels comfortable in any situation he’s placed in. Although he ultimately plays a central role in the demise of the Empire, he does so pretty reluctantly.
The history of C-3PO is explored in the prequel trilogy, but we certainly don’t learn everything we could about the droid. C-3PO is a pretty handy ally, even if he only ever does the right thing with a great deal of reluctance. 3PO knows hundreds of languages, and Anthony Daniels, the actor who plays him, has been a ubiquitous presence in the Star Wars universe. Not many actors can make a career out of playing a single character, but Daniels pretty much has, and that’s to his enormous credit.
C-3PO is an iconic character, and Daniels is at least partially responsible for that. After all, he’s the man in the suit.
Here are 16 Things You Never Knew About C-3PO.
16. C-3PO and Vader Only Share One Scene
We know from the prequels that Anakin Skywalker is C-3PO’s creator, so it’s slightly surprising to realize that Anakin and C-3PO only share a single scene in the original trilogy. That scene comes near the end of The Empire Strikes Back, when Han is frozen in carbonite. The two don’t exchange any dialogue, and C-3PO wouldn’t have known who Vader was anyway, but Vader certainly could have recognized his creation.
Of course, part of the point of Vader’s character is that he has repressed every element of his former self. He’s transformed himself into a menacing new monster – part man, part machine. It’s just like Obi-Wan said – he’s no longer Anakin Skywalker.
C-3PO is a remnant of that life, something he probably never expected to see again. Still Vader was focused on the task at hand, and on luring his son over to the dark side. Of course, it was ultimately Vader who would be reminded of who he used to be, and save his son in the process.
15. He’s a Master Pilot
Although he rarely gets the chance to use this skill, C-3PO is apparently an extraordinarily gifted pilot. The world of Star Wars is filled with pilots of incredible skill, and it seems to be a trait that Skywalkers are particularly equipped with. In fact, most speculation suggests that Anakin was the one who taught C-3PO how to fly, and he was likely a quick learner, considering his advanced mental faculties.
We only get to see C-3PO fly a couple of times throughout the films, but all indications from the expanded universe of content around Star Wars suggest that the character is an ace pilot. Pilots are something of a focal point for the Star Wars films.
George Lucas definitely thought flying was pretty cool. Even the droids, characters that don’t ordinarily get a chance to be cool, get a chance to fly with the pros. C-3PO is a talented pilot, even if he rarely gets a chance to prove it.
14. He Gets the First Line in the Original Trilogy and the Last in the Prequels
You’d be forgiven for thinking that, in the grand scheme of things, C-3PO is a fairly minor character. He’s integral to the plot of the first film, but after that, he’s mostly relegated to comic relief, and to varying degrees of effectiveness.
But part of the point of Star Wars is that it’s a mistake to overlook the little things. After all, the entire trilogy begins because someone on the Empire’s Star Destroyer fails to shoot down an escape pod containing R2 and C-3PO because there are no life forms on board.
It’s in this same spirit that C-3PO gets the first line of the original trilogy, and the last line of the prequels. That may not be entirely expected, but it makes perfect sense.
In Star Wars, C-3PO’s line is “Did you hear that? They shut down the main reactor. We’ll be destroyed for sure. This is madness.” In Revenge of the Sith, his last line is “Oh no!” when he discovers that he’s about to have his memory wiped.
13. His new red arm
There was some speculation around C-3PO’s red arm in The Force Awakens. It was the kind of detail that felt like something out of the original trilogy. It was never directly addressed. It just spoke to the time it had been since we had last seen these characters.
We ultimately learned that C-3PO wears the arm in memory of a droid who saved his life in the years between the original trilogy and the time when this new trilogy is set.
Every member of the Resistance team that C-3PO was with died on the mission, and he lost an arm as well. The story is actually a fairly moving reminder of the costs that come with waging a war, even for droids that have been around in for many previous wars.
C-3PO has seen plenty of dark, terrible stuff, and the limbs he loses serve as a reminder of the life that he’s led. He may seem like a butler, but at this point, he’s a butler who’s fought in three separate wars.
12. His original name
Part of the fun of the Star Wars universe comes from the strange specificity of the names. Han Solo isn’t exactly a name you’d hear every day, but it works in part because it feels foreign. These names didn’t just come to Lucas out of the blue. Like everything about the original Star Wars, they were both carefully considered and kind of insane. Initially, C-3PO’s name was just C3, and R2-D2’s name was A-2.
While both of these names probably would have worked well enough within the story, they’re far more generic than the longer names that Lucas and company ultimately went with. C3 feels very clinical, very bland. C-3PO has a much better ring to it. It’s the kind of combination of letters and numbers that you want to repeat over and over again.
11. His Right Leg is Part Silver
C-3PO spends a lot of time in the desert. That wouldn’t be hugely important, except it means that he’s often surrounded by a color very similar to the metal that makes up most of his body. It would be easy, therefore, to assume that C-3PO’s entire body is gold in color. What many fans don’t know is that one of C-3PO’s legs is actually silver. His right leg from the knee down, to be precise.
The silver on this leg shows the wear and tear that 3PO has been through, and is part of what makes the world of Star Wars feel so wonderfully realistic. 3PO isn’t a computer generated creation. Instead, he’s got specific details that constantly remind you that he has a history that predates the beginning of the first film. Of course, that history was explored in-depth in the prequels, to mixed success.
10. An Old Suit Was Repainted for the Prequels
If it wasn’t evident from their titles or their stories, the prequels actually take place before the events of the original trilogy. In The Phantom Menace, we learn that Anakin Skywalker actually created C-3PO, and that his memory was eventually wiped so that he would have no recollection of what happened to his former master. Because C-3PO is a younger, less battle-worn droid in the prequels, his armor looks newer, as though it has just been put on him.
Instead of designing him a new suit, the production designers on the prequel trilogy decided to take an old suit and simply repaint it. As a result, this suit looks almost exactly the same as the suits he wore in the original trilogy. C-3PO is, of course, a different color for a large part of the prequel trilogy, but in spite of that difference, using the same suits made it easily apparent that it was the old character that we’d grown to know and love.
9. Daniels Broke the Costume the Day Before Shooting Began
Star Wars was a famously difficult shoot for a huge number of reasons. They were shooting in the desert, and Lucas expected many of his actors to dress up in elaborate costumes. Anthony Daniels was one of those actors, and he didn’t try on the C-3PO suit until the day before production was set to begin. When he put the suit in, the inside the left leg shattered, and began to stab Daniels every time that he took a step.
It may have been a good idea for Daniels to try on his costume ahead of the day before shooting, but it seems like everything worked out okay in the end. Still, this story speaks to the haphazard way that almost everything about that first film came together.
It’s insane to consider what Star Wars became, knowing just how humble its beginnings really were. Anthony Daniels didn’t even have a suit that wouldn’t break until the day production started, but he managed to make it work anyway.
8. Daniels Couldn’t Sit down in the Suit
You really have to admire everything that Anthony Daniels had to endure in order to create C-3PO. Not only was he forced to wear an unbearably awkward costume on eight different shoots over 40 years, he was also stuck in a suit that didn’t allow him to sit, at least on the first film. Instead, whenever Daniels wasn’t shooting but had to remain in costume, he would simply have to lean against a board for rest.
There are some scenes when C-3PO is seated, but for those, the costume had to be partially disassembled. Numerous camera tricks were also employed to make it look as though C-3PO was sitting when he really wasn’t. This would have been an enormous challenge for Daniels, who couldn’t even take proper breaks from shooting when he was in costume. His ability to handle those kinds of conditions speaks to his overall dedication to the role.
7. A Puppet in The Phantom Menace
Anthony Daniels has been involved in every Star Wars film in some capacity. For most of these films, he’s actually inhabited the heavy C-3PO suit, one that he is probably quite accustomed to him these days. Even so, Daniels stepped out of the suit for the first film in the prequel trilogy, in part because there are large chunks of the film where C-3PO’s wiring is exposed, and it would be hard to hide a human underneath it.
Although Daniels continued to provide the voice for C-3PO, in The Phantom Menace his movements were created through puppetry. Puppetry was also used for Yoda in the film, although this was the last time the character wasn’t rendered with digital effects.
6. A different voice
The idea for C-3PO’s voice was originally something incredibly different than what Daniels eventually gave to the character. Initially, C-3PO was supposed to sound like a used car salesman. Presumably, that would have meant that his voice was much gruffer, much less sophisticated, and much more American. Daniels was supposed to act out C-3PO’s motions, but nothing more.
Lucas was eventually won over by Daniels’ portrayal of the character as something much closer to a stuck up British butler. It’s a good thing Lucas ultimately decided that Daniels’ voice was right for the part. It’s hard to imagine any other voice in the role, and the character would almost definitely have been less successful if he didn’t have that air of British stuffiness about him. C-3PO is above it all, and that’s kind of the point.
5. Dynamic with R2-D2
Lucas made a lot of edits over the course of the creation of this world. Initially, Lucas wanted R2-D2 to be able to speak English, and wrote entire scenes of dialogue between him and C-3PO. Although this idea was eventually scrapped in favor of the boops and beeps that characterize R2’s dialect in the films, many of 3PO’s reactions to R2’s dialogue were left intact.
One of the great comedy beats of the entire trilogy comes from the idea that only 3PO is able to understand what R2 is saying at any given moment, even as all of the other characters remain completely clueless as to what he’s saying. The decision to leave C-3PO’s reactions in only heightens these comedic moments. R2 doesn’t speak English, but that only makes the whole thing funnier. Clearly, the decision to make R2 speak in a foreign, robotic language was the right one.
4. His Design was Based on the Maschinenmensch
Star Wars is a foundational text in the world of science fiction. Many of the great sci-fi stories are in one way or another indebted to the Star Wars, but there were a number of substantial entries into the genre before Star Wars came along.
One of these is Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s silent film about a dystopian future where the world is bifurcated into a beautiful utopia and a dismal underground where the lower classes work in service of the wealthy.
Metropolis is a foundational piece of sci-fi, and it’s unsurprising that when Lucas decided he needed to include some robots in his retro-futuristic world, he looked to that film. C-3PO is based on the Maschinenmensch, a character from Metropolis who is part robot and part human. The character represents one of the first robots ever depicted on film, and the resemblance between C-3PO and the 1927 character is honestly kind of uncanny.
3. Daniels Had a Panic Attack while filming
C-3PO endures quite a lot over the course of this saga, and it’s not entirely clear that all of that pain is justified. After all, he’s just looking for a quiet life, but his friendship with R2 always seems to get him into trouble.
In the third installment, 3PO and R2 are sent to Jabba’s as gifts by Luke, and while they’re there, they endure a fair bit of violence. In one scene, where a rat-like character named Salacious Crumb attacks 3PO’s eye and takes it out, Anthony Daniels had a panic attack.
All of his lines in the scene were dubbed over later on, because all Daniels said over and over again was “Get me up.” They ultimately decided to use that take in the final film, maybe because the panic in 3PO’s movements felt so real. Nobody likes it their eyes to be attacked, and for Daniels, the costume didn’t do enough to separate Crumb from his actual eye.
2. Inspired by Kurosawa
George Lucas stole a lot of the pieces of Star Wars from things that he had grown up watching. That’s not a dig against him. Many filmmakers steal from the artists they admire. Lucas stole heavily from the films of Akira Kurosawa, the master of Japanese filmmaking who was already a legend by the time Lucas was making Star Wars 40 years ago.
For C-3PO and R2, Lucas looked to two similar characters in The Hidden Fortress, a Kurosawa film from 20 years before Star Wars. It’s from this film that Lucas took the idea of telling a fairly epic story from the perspective of characters who were at the bottom of the totem pole.
Instead of following Luke, our hero, right out of the gate, we are first introduced to R2 and C-3PO, and see the entire story through their eyes. This keeps the film grounded, even as things gradually become more fantastical.
1. Anthony Daniels is the Only Actor to Appear in Every Star Wars Film
There are a couple of recurring characters who have appeared in almost every Star Wars film. Obi-Wan and Yoda appear in most of the original trilogy and the prequels, and Darth Vader’s presence looms large over the franchise as a whole. There’s only one actor who has made an appearance in every Star Wars film, though, and that’s Anthony Daniels.
Daniels has at least been a voice in every installment, and he also embodied C-3PO in many of them.
Although his role is fairly limited in several of the films, C-3PO’s constant presence has become something of a hallmark for the Star Wars universe. It doesn’t really feel like a Star Wars film until 3PO shows up alongside R2. These two characters were our way into the story, and they’re the characters who often feel the most unsure of what’s actually happening. Daniels’ work inside the suit has been an anchor for the franchise, and it’s a role he gladly fills. He’ll be seen next in Star Wars: The Last Jedi in December of 2017.
Do you have any trivia to share about C-3PO from Star Wars? Leave it in the comments!
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