True confession: this was one of the most exciting interviews I have ever done. The exhibition Star Wars: The Magic Of Myth was opened last week by none other than Anthony Daniels, the man who has played C3PO in all of the Star Wars films. The films and their meaning were the id?fixe of my adolescence, and given that I was seven when the original Star Wars was released, C3PO was also probably the first gay character I had seen on film.
I knew even then that the camp protocol droid was considered odd and certainly Daniels’ performance has been joked about ever since. My first memory of this cultural ribbing was a reference to him as a fag robot in a beloved Mad Magazine 1978 spoof Star Bores and any number of more recent piss-takes include a grab on The Simpsons, when the Cylons wrestled those gay robots from Star Wars. (C3PO was beaten to scrap metal.)
So what does the man himself think about these rumours?
That he’s gay? smiles Daniels. Interpretation is everything. I think people get confused by the fact that Threepio is sort of fussy, because he likes everything to be right, and that is certainly something I share. I was here this morning saying -“ that light can’t be there because of this, this and this -¦
And then there is this relationship with R2D2, who everybody I suppose assumes is male. But he’s an -˜it’ really, and Threepio sort of is an -˜it’ too. Threepio does get confused when humans kiss each other and whatever, he doesn’t get that.
This is where it gets (more) strange. Daniels is a droll character -“ his personal website is packed with his camp replies to fan questions -“ and he claims to be responsible for making C3PO quite different to George Lucas’s original intentions. (Lucas famously auditioned 30 different actors to dub over Daniels’ dialogue in the first film, because he wanted Threepio to sound like a Bronx car dealer.) But back to cyber-sexuality.
C3PO tried it [sex] once with R2D2 and it wasn’t something he needed to do again, he grins. It’s certainly not something he dreams about when he switches off. I think possibly it’s his caring side, that people confuse with effeminacy, or gay or whatever. And it’s not necessary.
What about C3PO as a gay icon then?
I’ve never had any official recognition or badge or cheque or whatever, which is a shame because I think it would be great to be an icon -¦ But he hasn’t of course seen The Wizard Of Oz, so he didn’t know Dorothy right? Because that was before his time.
Then comes a wicked, beautifully British half-smile.
It’s hard to think what kind of sexual experience he could provide for himself or anyone else. I think R2D2 probably presents more possibilities with all those extensions, says Daniels, laughing out loud at this.
They’re always making new R2D2s with his latest appendage -“ maybe we’d better not go there had we? That’s certainly something that they hadn’t marketed!
Of course, we did talk about other matters, but Daniels has the celebrity double-whammy of being at once simply an actor, and also being the star of a cult film whose lifestyle is supported by appearance at fan conventions. As a result his replies to questions about how uncomfortable it was inside the suit, for example, are as predictable and enriching as a Filet O’ Fish.
So I wrote about the gay shit instead. For more (or is that less?) information, visit www.starwars.com or www. anthonydaniels.com.
Star Wars: The Magic Of Myth is showing at the Powerhouse Museum at 500 Harris Street, Ultimo, until 2 February 2003. Admission is $10. Phone 9217 0111 for more information or visit www.phm.gov.au.