UPDATE! Anthony Daniels Reveals ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ Details in ‘I Am C-3PO’
I Am C-3PO: The Inside Story was released at the end of last week. The new memoir of Anthony Daniels telling the story of his journey with the fussy protocol droid over the last four decades. From his origins as a Ralph McQuarrie sketch to the final chapter in the Skywalker Saga. So, like a child with a new mystery book, I couldn’t wait to jump to the end to find out whodunit. Or, in this case, what a beloved actor had to say about The Rise of Skywalker.
Quite a lot, it turns out! Though he’s careful to give little away, Daniels devotes plenty of pages, far more than I honestly expected, to what is likely to be his final saga film.
But before we dive into that, the man himself is due to appear on ABC’s Good Morning America today, so you may wish to watch that first. Presumably this will be part of his memoir publicity tour, but, as always with his playfully cryptic tweets, who can be sure?
BREAKING NEWS………………………TODAY………………………. CHANNEL 7…….ABC… GOOD MORNING AMERICA………………….. 08.00 – 09.00……..BE THERE……….I WILL…… ENDS……
— Anthony Daniels (@ADaniels3PO) November 5, 2019
Here’s the GMA coverage:
— Good Morning America (@GMA) November 5, 2019
Back with me? Ok, first a little context. As I flipped through the pages, eager to read what he had to say about Episode IX, I skimmed through his thoughts on the previous films of the Disney era. In doing so it quickly became apparent that Anthony Daniels isn’t shy in expressing his sadness at Threepio’s reduced role in the sequel trilogy so far. “I accepted that Threepio was very much on the periphery but I recognized that J.J. had a huge, difficult balancing act – getting everyone back into the story. I would have liked it if my friend had more opportunities to show off his talents and vulnerabilities. I thought Threepio was worth more”, he writes about The Force Awakens, later saying that at dinner following the table read both Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher “were appalled at their roles – Mark in particular.” Writing about Threepio’s role in The Last Jedi, he likened his character to a Christmas ornament brought out once a year, “familiar but with no real purpose. There, for nostalgia’s sake only”, before concluding “why not? And I was flattered to be asked.”
That’s not to say he had a bad experience. Far from it, as his book makes clear. Just that he felt Threepio had more to offer.
So what of The Rise of Skywalker?
“I was delighted at the prospect of working with J.J. again. I just didn’t know what to expect after The Last Jedi. I knew nothing of the plot. Where could the story be going? How could anyone wrap up all the strands and tatters and make something complete and satisfying? Would Threepio’s last hurrah be a faint cry of disappointment? He and I were inured to being marginalised. But it was really nice to be asked back. And to be invited to dinner with the stars.”
The dinner he refers to was at his favorite restaurant in London with J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy, along with new and returning cast members for the final saga movie. Whilst “warm words” were said about Threepio’s role, Daniels hadn’t seen a script or even an outline at this point. And Chris Terrio, J.J.’s co-writer for Episode IX, hadn’t been able to make the meal due to illness. He would have to wait.
But it sounds like it was worth it.
A fan of Terrio’s work on Argo, Anthony Daniels had nothing but praise for writer’s work on The Rise of Skywalker. Terrio, he says, “had clearly steeped himself in the lore of the Saga”, delivering “a terrific script that seemed heading for a very satisfying conclusion.” Having felt marginalized since the days of the prequels, it is very telling when Daniels writes “Threepio had been away a long time. Now he was back.” It certainly sounds like Threepio will be playing a larger role this time, fitting perhaps for a character who was there from the beginning, and the only actor to have appeared in every installment of the saga.
Reading Daniels’ memoir it’s clear that the script for The Rise of Skywalker was constantly evolving during production, changing daily as J.J. and Terrio worked to craft the best story they could. But Daniels’ praise remained unwavering. Even his initial fears that some of the film’s warmer moments could be lost to the cuts were short lived as “they were always substituted by something even better”, even if one lost exchange between Threepio and Poe Dameron still haunts him.
If he had one real concern about the script, it was that it always arrived last-minute before filming. “Lines don’t get remembered as they used to,” Daniels wrote. Three words in particular eluded him; “a common emblem.” The meaning of those words, or the context in which they’re spoken, he isn’t sharing, but he does reveal that it was on set, not location, and that Oscar Isaac was there.
He also reveals that there will be a scene involving some form of giant creature;
“I’d now read about the huge, malevolent creature. I’d assumed it would be CG – computer graphics, created at ILM in San Francisco. I thought we’d all be looking into empty space, maybe with a cardboard cutout for reference – perhaps a mop head. In reality, it was real. A giant, living thing that towered and menaced right in front of me.”
Obviously, Star Wars is no stranger to a fantastic assortment of creatures, but there’s been no hint of this that I can recall in the trailers, so I can’t wait to see what exactly is towering over Threepio, and presumably our other heroes, when the film is released.
Though his anecdotes remain largely spoiler free, Anthony Daniels shares his experiences of The Rise of Skywalker. From frequently praising the team and the sets, to rejoicing at costume upgrades that meant Threepio could now grip things with ease and a new internal cooling vest to help keep him comfortable inside his robotic friend. Though uneven terrain would frequently remain Threepio’s enemy, with Daniels recounting how Daisy Ridley and John Boyega would frequently come to his rescue, with John at one point “marooned with me on a speeder twenty feet up and far from any external assistance”. A moment from the speeder chase on Pasaana perhaps?
He speaks of returning to the desert. To Jordan this time rather than Tunisia, where “the stretching vistas, more than ever before in all the previous episodes of Star Wars, evoked the spirit of Ralph McQuarrie’s original concept painting”, and his costume offered him shielding from the burning desert sun. He reminisces about filming the Pasaana chase on a rig with John Boyega and Oscar Isaac, where an unexpected stop left him with sea legs, dinner with Jordan’s royal family, and more.
Back on set in London he reveals perhaps the biggest potential spoiler in the book. The Knights of Ren are on Kijimi. I say that, but it’s probably best to note that what Daniels actually writes is “the Knights of Ren were rumored to be in the vicinity.” So whilst they likely are on Kijimi, it could just be a rumor that our heroes hear whilst they are there.
I say biggest. It might actually be the second biggest. Daniels’ stories and anecdotes flow one to the next, not always in chronological order. Combined with the film shooting out of order due to practicality and it can be easy to get a little lost. But after the exterior Kijimi set came the interior Pasaana set, recreating the Jordan desert, then came Christmas. Then came the end.
Returning from his Christmas break, Anthony Daniels makes reference to “an ingenious set, with all its intriguing rubbish.” In particular he notes “I paid brief homage to a familiar droid – abandoned in the corner. Perhaps all droids are abandoned in the end. It’s their lot in existence.” My first instinct was that he was referring to the Battle Droid that can be seen behind Threepio in the final trailer. But what he wrote next changed my mind;
“So I tried hard to concentrate as finally, the cameras moved to my close up. For Threepio, this was going to be a telling moment in his existence. Because, suddenly, I had uttered his last line in a Star Wars film. We weren’t finished shooting but in the cat’s cradle, mixed-up schedule, I was now silenced – for ever … Of course it was all out of sequence but in the final edit, we had shot the closing moments of the film itself.”
Now, I can’t believe they would have revealed Threepio’s last line in the trailer, let alone ending of the saga, and no matter how poignant and moving the line was, the scene certainly didn’t look like the end. So perhaps they return to that location at the end of the movie, or perhaps Daniels is referring to another familiar droid in another location all together. But one thing we learn here is that Rey, Finn, and Threepio were all present for the ending. Or at least Threepio is. Whilst Ridley and Boyega were on set with him, Daniels doesn’t specify whether or not they filmed the scene with him. He understandably doesn’t want to give anything away.
Writing about the ending, Daniels gives every reason for fans to feel optimistic about The Rise of Skywalker;
“It all felt so right and so fulfilling. Chris and J.J. had gathered in all the threads and tatters of the previous episodes and spun a mystery of their own; a wonderous coup of creative storytelling, a fulfilling and rewarding closure, for everyone.”
His actual final day of shooting found Threepio uncharacteristically silent. He had no lines, but was, Daniels reveals, “in the company of two of his favorite companions, two of his favorite humans.”
I have to say, the book is a joy to read. You can hear Anthony Daniels’ voice in your head as you read his words. From funny stories to heartfelt moments, having jumped ahead to learn the secrets of The Rise of Skywalker, I can’t wait to go back to the start and take the full forty year journey with him.
I am C-3PO: The Inside Story by Anthony Daniels is out now in hardback and read by the man himself in audio book.