As the only actor to have appeared in all 11 Star Wars movies, Anthony Daniels has seen first-hand how the science fiction genre has grown and expanded over the years.
The classically trained actor and mime from London, who gave life to C-3PO, the humanoid robot from the franchise, starred in the very first film Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope in 1977.
In particular, he says he's noticed the connection between the Star Wars films and how far space exploration has come.
“In the movies, it's not just the actors who are involved, there's hundreds of people behind the camera, and it's the same with space travel,” he tells The National. “It’s not just the men in goldfish bowls over their heads. There's a whole team of people making this happen.”
Daniels, who made an appearance at the Middle East Film & Comic Con this past weekend in Abu Dhabi, says that throughout his travels around the world, he’s met many people who work in science and space exploration that credit Star Wars for inspiring them to pursue their chosen field.
“Science fiction has become much more intelligent now. Some of the writing is so informed, and of course, the films have encouraged scientific growth,” he says.
“Many people I've met who work in space in the past, made it there because of Star Wars, because George [Lucas, the creator of Star Wars] made this world seem available and that you could do it.”
A frequent guest to many comic cons around the world, it was Daniels’s first time to the UAE capital and he says he was particularly impressed with the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
“For me, the highlight obviously was the mosque, what a fabulous thing to have in the city,” he says. “I know everyone is very proud of it. From our hotel, we have a wonderful view of it every morning. It was a wonderful experience and if it was only to see that, I'd be happy.”
Daniels's face may not be as recognisable as that of his Star Wars co-stars, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, but true fans of the franchise know him from his incredible body of work in the series of films.
His beloved character, C-3PO, is a by-the-book, pretentious and anxious character, often the source of comic relief in tense situations, much to the frustration of other characters. He also acts as a much-needed resource to the plot of the stories as a character who has a lot of knowledge on the history of the universe and how it functions.
In 2019, Daniels released his memoir I Am C-3PO: The Inside Story, a fascinating and personal account of the Star Wars world from behind the golden metal costume.
His favourite part of attending comic cons is seeing people come in costume and the effort fans take to transform themselves into their favourite characters.
“Doesn't have to be Star Wars, there is a genre for everybody. Whether its anime, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who... you can come as anything and feel very much part of something," he says.
“What I do really like is when people have made their costumes. Buying a Storm Trooper costume only makes money for Disney, for the franchise. But if you've made one out of cardboard and white paint on the tape, how much more fun is that?”
Recalling his first meeting with Star Wars creator Lucas, Daniels admits that he wasn’t interested, nor was he a fan of science fiction as a genre. However, upon the insistence of his agent to take on the role and after seeing the concept art of the film by concept designer Ralph McQuarrie, the actor was convinced.
He, of course, had no idea the low-budget film by the then mostly unknown director, would change the course of his life and career.
“It was seeing it in a newsagent shop in London, it was either the Newsweek or Time cover — Star Wars, there it was,” he says.
“I didn't even know that the film opened. They didn't tell me. And from then on, shortly after that, everything changed.”