Having worked on the set of the Star Wars prequels, do think some of the magic is back?
I’m not putting down the art of filming, but filmmaking on the set is reasonably mundane, because the story is chopped up into so many bits. And the only person who really knows what is going on is the director and the person looking through the viewfinder, who is the cameraman. Literally, the cameraman in the old days was the only one who could watch what was happening, because he was the only one looking through the lens seeing how the movie looks. And if you look through a 35 millimeter or 75 millimeter lens, it looks like a movie. It has beautiful color and it’s beautifully lit and all that kind of thing. Nowadays, a lot of directors look at a video assist. You know, a video camera is [filming the scene] too. So more people get to see what is happening, but it’s in tiny chunks and you have to have the brain of an IBM computer to understand how it’s going to look altogether. On set, literally it’s quite hard to get an idea of what the finished movie is going to be like and where the magic is. And there are a few effects going in afterwards, so I’ll be fascinated to see what happens.
You’ve eventually become the most recognized voice of the Star Wars films. Why do you think that’s the case?
Well, I think James Earl Jones. [Laughs] Every time I hear his voice. “This is CNN.” I love it. I was watching something the other day where he was a judge. And his voice, I think, is quite extraordinary. And he had a tremendously difficult time in Star Wars because they didn’t make sure they left enough space so James Earl Jones could put this lovely, slow, meaningful delivery. And obviously C3P0 worked particularly well in America, because he was the only English person apart from Alec Guinness, who, again, is memorable. I guess C3P0 stuck out a bit because he sounded very grand, I suppose, and very English. And he was shot a lot, so he was kind of hard to miss.
What do you think are some of the other aspects of C3P0’s appeal?
I think one of the appeals is that he can overtly exhibit human emotion. We wouldn’t normally accept the human who kind of withers away and keeps saying he was frightened. Most humans pretend they’re not frightened. They pretend this and they pretend that. We all do pretend. We’re brought up to be brave, grown up, to act like a man and all this kind of stuff. C3P0 missed out on this programming session. And he wasn’t taught that. So he just comes out [and says] he doesn’t like this. [Laughs] It’s quite lovely, because it’s very honest. And you can’t help liking somebody if he doesn’t quite know the rules.