Christmas is around the corner and that means two certainties: a new Star Wars film is about to hit the cinemas and a positive avalanche of autobiographies will be landing in bookstores in time for the Christmas shoppers. The release of I Am C-3PO, Anthony Daniels’ entertaining account of his life inside the gold armour, couldn’t be more auspiciously timed. If you’re a Star Wars fanatic, this book makes the perfect stocking filler. Immediately striking the tone is Star Wars alumni J.J. Abrams’ introduction, which sings the author’s praises and pinpoints what makes the droid so human and so beloved. Abrams offers a simple explanation for the robot’s popularity, which is that there is a human beneath that wonderful metallic exterior. That this human appears to be a decent one, as well as a more than decent writer, is a bonus.
Daniels breaks his story up into numerous short chapters that he positively gallops through and the reader is quickly taken to the very early days of the Star Wars story and the actor’s first encounter with George Lucas. The reader moves swiftly on to the casting – not just the casting of Daniels as C-3PO but the casting of Daniels’ body as preparations are undertaken to create the droid’s metallic frame. Daniels is excellent at conveying the complications of wearing that suit and the incredible painstaking work that went into getting into it and then acting in it. There are also plenty of accompanying images to show the process behind Daniels’ transformation into his character. My estimation of Daniels went up a few notches after witnessing him standing in a north African desert wearing nothing but metal.
As you’d expect from a luvvie’s memoir, there are plenty of backstage stories. None of them are lurid and many are charming, such as when Daniels first arrives on location and Alec Guinness offers some of his own generous per diem to the rookie actor. The fact that he gets to act with Guinness – one of the finest actors of his generation, both on stage and on the screen – is a dream come true for the author. And while Guinness’s opinion of the film was made famous in his hilarious letter to Anne Kaufman, he is nothing but utterly gracious and kind to his co-star. Later in the book, Carrie Fisher is honoured by having her own chapter.
Daniels is often very funny and is aware of his tendency to self-effacement, that peculiarly British malaise. He talks about his love of treading the boards and his initial trepidation before embarking on theatre school and a full-time career in acting. He is quick to make fun of himself while showing absolute respect and affection for most of the cast and crew on Star Wars. Without ever overtly saying so, Daniels makes clear that he was not enamoured of all those he worked alongside.
One of the most notable traits of C-3PO is his voice: slightly effeminate and fastidious, it is as much part of his make-up as the red glowing eyes and the gold casing. If you are a fan of this particular Star Wars character, then perhaps the audiobook is the best choice for Daniels narrates his memoirs with that inimitable and somewhat strange voice. This is an ideal gift for die-hard Star Wars fans wanting to know even more about life on the set of one of the greatest cinematic series ever created. Incredibly, Daniels has been involved in – and occasionally excluded from – the series for over forty years. If you want to know about living in the Star Wars universe, you need to read this book.
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