An interview with Anthony Daniels, known as C-3PO, who’ll be on hand to launch EMP Museum’s upcoming exhibition, “Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen: Star Wars and the Power of the Costume.”
Anthony Daniels’ fondest memories of his robotic C-3PO costume involve taking it off. But that first day on the job was pretty good, too.
After spending two hours getting pulled, shoved and snapped into the metallic fiberglass costume, he remembers stepping onto the “Star Wars” set in the middle of a dusty desert as the sun just began to rise. As the early-morning sunlight reflected off his shiny, gold exterior, he peered out of the little holes in his mask and saw stunned faces and wide-open mouths.
“These (costumes) are pure iconography,” Daniels said in a recent phone interview. “Sometimes you just have to shut up and appreciate them.”
‘Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen: Star Wars and the Power of the Costume’
Grand Opening Party, with Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels and others, 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, EMP Museum, 325 Fifth Ave., Seattle; $30-$60 (206-770-2700 or empmuseum.org).
The exhibition runs Jan. 31-Oct. 4, EMP Museum, 325 Fifth Avenue North, Seattle; $14-$22 (206-770-2700 or empmuseum.org).
“Star Wars” fans have a chance to do just that, as Seattle’s EMP Museum unveils “Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen: Star Wars and the Power of the Costume” on Saturday. The show, which will be on display until Oct. 4 before it continues on a 12-city national tour, features 60 handmade costumes worn in the first six films of the “Star Wars” franchise. Included are Daniels’ C-3PO suit and that of his partner R2-D2, Queen Amidala’s gowns and Darth Vader’s helmet.
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“I love that ‘Star Wars’ has its own life and it continues on to this day,” said Laela French, senior manager of archives and exhibits for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which is coproducing the exhibit with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).
Added Jacob McMurray, a senior curator at EMP, on a recent walk-through of the exhibit: “It’s a cultural touchstone.”
Alongside the costumes, behind-the-scenes stories and pictures are displayed to bolster the relationship between costume and character, French said.
“It’s a really fun creative process they go through to both create the design of the character and also the costume of the character because you can’t take one away from the other,” she said.
In the exhibit, Daniels explains how his character’s costume helped him agree to be in the original trilogy, saying that when he looked at a concept painting of the character done by Ralph McQuarrie, “it seemed like he was going to speak to me. He seemed to say, ‘Come here. I can’t leave this picture frame, but you can step through it and be with me.’ ”
C-3PO’s mask that brought that expression to the films was sculpted by hand by Liz Moore. Daniels said the mask is slightly asymmetrical, imperfect like a human’s face. The 68-year-old actor — who wore the same costume in all six of the movies — said he can do the voice, the posture and the movements of C-3PO, but he needed the mask to fully bring the character to life.
“What a remarkable gift she gave me,” Daniels said.
Daniels’ costume, which was assembled piece by piece every day through an intricate system of pins, was so rigid, he couldn’t sit down between takes. Sometimes, just taking the mask off took 20 minutes. To take breaks, he had to remove the head piece and lean against a custom-built slant board, which reclined his body to rest his muscles.
To launch the exhibit in Seattle, Daniels and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) are featured guests at EMP’s grand opening party Friday night.
Many of the costumes are displayed on open-air platforms in the exhibit, so fans can clearly see details on each piece that may have gone unnoticed on screen, said Saul Sopoci Drake, project director at SITES. Details like hand-sewn pearls on Padme Amidala’s wedding dress and individual yak hairs on Chewbacca’s coat are easily visible.
Daniels looks forward to being able to appreciate the craftsmanship of the costumes again at the exhibit, just as fan anticipation is building for a new trio of “Star Wars” films. (“Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” is slated to open in theaters in December of this year.)
“When you stare at these iconic costumes, you can remember the film,” Daniels said. “Each costume has greater value than just a sewing kit and its materials. They live in real time.”