And as the man behind the oft-bumbling protocol droid C-3PO, the 76-year-old British thespian did most of his work inside the incommodious confines of Threepio’s iconic gold-plated suit.
The first time Daniels donned the costume, in Tunisia for 1977’s original Star Wars, “it was just awful, and it broke immediately, it was very fragile,” Daniels explained during a 2020 Role Recall interview in which he shared stories from all 11 adventures (watch below). “And, of course, in the making [of the film], I would stand there covered in this fiberglass stuff, and the itching afterward was horrific.”
Though Daniels’s suit went through different iterations and became easier to wear over the years, he still faced difficult moments — none more daunting than a frightening episode on the set of 1983’s Return of the Jedi, the Star Wars sequel that celebrates its 40th anniversary later this month.
While filming the sequence at Jabba the Hutt’s palace where the monkey-lizard Salacious B. Crumb tries to feast on C-3PO, Daniels suffered a panic attack as he lay horizontally — and helpless — in his suit.
“One day Salacious Crumb was chewing out Threepio’s eye, and I'm lying there on the floor and out of nowhere, I got something that I understand was claustrophobia. Instant panic," he recounted.
“I had no idea what was going on. Suddenly my world had changed and I’m yelling, ‘Get me out! Get me out!’ And [the head of my costume] was off in seconds. I'd never had that experience before. It gave me an insight into what some people suffer, a phobia.”
Daniels says he’s much more embarrassed, however, by Threepio’s disco dancing during the threequel’s oft-mocked climactic Ewok dance party.
But “that was it,” he thought at the time. He had completed a hit trilogy.
Little did he know there would be eight Star Wars movies (and possibly more to come?) as well as multiple TV shows in his future.
“People say, ‘What’s it like to be in all the Star Wars movies?,’” Daniels says. “It's too big for me to understand. I genuinely cannot of conceive the bigness of what I have done, that people tell me. So I just accept that they like it, [that] they're impressed. … I just think, ‘I’m kind of happy to have survived it all, really.’”
Return of the Jedi is currently back in theaters for its 40th anniversary.
Editor's note: A version of this story was first published on May 4, 2022.