Writer for Droids
As a long-time visual effects designer at Industrial Light & Magic, Joe Johnston has greatly contributed to several Lucasfilm productions including Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. In 1984, Johnston wrote and illustrated the Ewok storybook The Adventures of Teebo: A Tale of Magic and Suspense. After finishing work on Temple of Doom, he left ILM to to attend USC film school (where George Lucas had also previously attended). Johnston returned to Lucasfilm to to design and direct the second unit photography for the two Ewok TV movies (released theatrically overseas) The Ewok Adventure: The Caravan of Courage and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. He also directed the second unit photography for the Matthew Robbins film *batteries not included before becoming the director of the blockbuster hit film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Johnston’s next film was the movie adaptation of the hit action-adventure comic book The Rocketeer.
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Writer of “The Adventures of Mungo Baobab” episodes of Droids and the Droids Special: The Great Heep
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Protocol droid C-3PO (See-Threepio) in Droids and The Droids Special: The Great Heep
Fans will instantly recognize Anthony Daniels for his role as the golden protocol droid C-3PO in the Star Wars movie saga. In addition to acting, Anthony is also a director, producer and writer. Apart from being C-3PO, he has amassed lengthy stage credits that include a nine-month run in a London play called Dangerous Corner. One of his latest movie roles include the British film I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle. Anthony has written several children’s musicals for the BBC and has produced and directed several video documentaries and historical-based films. Anthony has played C-3PO on film, radio and television. As C-3PO, he continues to do foreign commercials and promotional tours. C-3PO lives on in animatronic form in the Star Tours attraction ride at Disneyland theme parks in the United States, Japan and France. Anthony’s voice can now be heard on the book-on-tape version of the new Star Wars novel: Dark Forces Rising. In 1985, Anthony returned to perform the voice of C-3PO for the animated series Droids: The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO and The Droids Special: The Great Heep.
Anthony, how did you decide on being an actor?
About seventeen years ago [as of the early 1990s]… and I think most people know that it wasn’t my first career, because everybody kept telling me what a dumb career it was and how actors are no good…! Why didn’t I become a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher or brain surgeon or even an accountant or something?! Anything but an actor, they thought. And I believed them, you know? In was very suggestible as a child and I thought, “Okay, they must be right, I must be crazy for wanting to be an actor.” Eventually, when I was 24, it became clear to me that there wasn’t much point existing if I was going to be so unhappy about not being able to do what I want. So I put myself through drama school. I spent a few years there and then I got into the industry. And I’m still around – pretty amazing! So far, I’ve been lucky in that I’ve not had to wait tables. Alternatively, I would have made a good waiter. (Laughter) I started off on BBC radio, because I won an award that gave me a contract and an Equity card. I was amazed! I don’t think that I’ve won anything else since. I was really quite lucky! The BBC project was wonderful, because it gave me an entry into the business. Over here, in Britain, you can’t work in show business without an Equity card and I got one straight off.
I later spent some six months in local performances. The company was teaching mime, so I had to get by body into shape. Then I did a couple of plays right on the outskirts of London. The director of the London Theatre came to see the last performance and he asked me to join his company and tour around Europe and then back to London. I was doing a lot of Shakespeare stuff, you know. Then I moved into a production in the West End of London, which is much like Broadway [in the US]. It was while I was doing that, that I met George Lucas. And we kind of seemed to get on and that was it! And there you are! That was about fourteen or fifteen years ago [as of the early 1990s].
Anthony, you’ve presented a special show at various science-fiction/fantasy conventions in the past…
Oh yeah! I haven’t done one for ages. I really used to enjoy doing those. I would get some film clips together and I just walk on stage and kind of make people laugh for a while. It’s kind of to do it, but its great fun! I tell stories about making the Star Wars movies. It’s all for people who really want to hear about it – and the fans are great! The fans sometimes know more about the actual films than I do! I’ve only watched them a few times! But I know what happened when they were actually filmed. So between us, we have quite a fund of knowledge. It was quite a laugh! We had some good times! It’s also nice to meet the people who pay my salary – the audience, you know, the fans. In the cinema, you don’t get to see them, because they’re watching your film a year after you finish work on it. So, to actually meet some of the people who pay the ticket price to see you is kind of nice, you know?
Do you have a favorite Star Wars collectable?
Yes I do! And I think that I’m one of the very few in the world who’ve got one, because I’ve asked the company to stop making it! It was so disgusting, that I felt insulted! I think that it was actually made by a company called “Taste-Setters” or something and it was one of the worst pieces of bad taste that I’ve ever seen! You can imagine that it is a Scotch tape dispenser, which is a ceramic C-3PO that has him lying on his back slightly, with his hands on his knees. Between his knees and his thighs is where a roll of tape comes out. C3PO looks like he’s either giving birth, or he’s about to have some kind of strange gynecological examination! I personally found it slightly offensive, but I have it on my desk! I love it, but it’s absolutely dreadful! I don’t want anyone else to have one, because I think that it’s a little demeaning to have a roll of Scotch tape shoved up your…! (Laughter) I hope that it’s one of a kind. I’ve been careful not to break it. Everyone who sees it, loves it! And they all want it, because it’s so rare! The fear is to hate it and to want it! I was waiting for them to bring out the toilet-roll version (laughter), with 3PO bending the other way. But even they [“Taste-Setters”] couldn’t think of that one!
I’d have to say that my other favorite collectable is an unopened box of Kellogg’s C-3PO’s. It was a Kellogg’s cereal that had a difficult birth and an even shorter life. It was a strange product I do have a sweet tooth, but whoa! WOW! It is quite good in ice cream, though. (Laughter)
You also were the voice of C-3PO for the Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back radio productions that aired on NPR (National Public Radio) in 1981 and 1983 (respectively).
Yes. They were very, very hard work, because there are many more scripts in a radio play than in a film. And everything is in the sound! 3PO’s voice is very hard to do for any length of time, because he doesn’t breath. So I was always running out of air! We were in a radio studio in New York. That was nice to do!
Would you like to do a Return of the Jedi radio production?
Oh yes, definitely! I think that we should! It’s always bothered me that we didn’t do that one. To me, the radio series just isn’t complete without it. The whole thing is a trilogy and it robs the first two of their accuracy by not completing the series with the third one. I do enjoy voice work, it’s quite inventive! I would really like them to do a radio production of Jedi – and I would be there! [And he was, as the Star Wars: Return of the Jedi radio adaptation was finally produced for airing in 1996!]
Two years after Return of the Jedi was released to theaters, you returned as the voice of C-3PO for the animated Droids television series.
Yes, I was asked to do the main voice in Droids, the cartoon series which we did in Canada, And that was great fun! We only did one season of that series – 13 episodes and the special. The series is constantly on television over here, in Britain, I don’t know about the States. [ ]
Would you like to do new episodes of Droids?
Oh, yeah! Yes, I wish that it would return! It’s quite a good idea. It’s actually quite a good concept that 3PO as a “hero” is absolutely pathetic (laughter) – he needs his masters to be the real heroes instead! (Laughter) There was a great deal of love attached to the series. I thought that it worked rather well and the affection between the characters kept it going. So I’d like to see that again!
C-3PO continues to live on through foreign television commercials and at the Star Tours attraction at Disney themeparks.
Yes, and now I’ve actually been recording the same production in French, for Euro-Disneyland. You know how 3PO is always boasting about how he speaks so many languages , well the French people came to me and asked, “Well, can you speak French?” And I had to say, “Oh, of course!” So I then had to do a little homework. I do speak French, but it sounds a bit like Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films! (Laughter) So I had to find a way to speak French the way that 3PO would speak it. So now, 3PO not only speaks in Ewokese, but in French as well. And it is such a great ride, I can’t tell you! It is absolutely brilliant! It’s real immortality to be a part of Disneyland! I was having a great time in Florida with Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher when we opened Star Tours in Orlando. And I was in Tokyo the year before opening Star Tours with George Lucas.
The script that Tom Fritzgerald wrote for 3PO that is just brilliant! It was as if he were 3PO. He understood the character completely! It was great! It’s so nice when someone does that for me – and 3PO loves it too! Every year I think that, well, there’s no more 3PO, but then someone rings up and says, “Do you want to do this or do that?” And I’m very fond of 3PO, so if it’s fine with him, it’s fine with me. I like that!
Your son, Chris, worked with you on Star Tours.
Yes, he helped research the Ewok language for us. All the Ewok language that you hear is in fact me. Not many people know, but the Ewok announcements are all my voice. They’re like weird, little announcements and it’s me doing a funny voice. Chris and I wrote those together. He found the Ewok words for me and we put them into sentences and worked out what it all meant. I actually enjoy that kind of thing a lot. I had quite a laugh with that. And because not many people know that it’s me doing all of that, so that’s fun too.
Anthony, what are some of your most recent projects [in the early 1990s]?
I’ve been doing British TV over here – sit-coms and TV movies. I did a movie that is now coming out on video over here called I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle. It’s about a motorcycle that gets possessed by demons and goes around suckin’ everybody’s blood instead of petrol. (Laughter) Eventually, even the hero (who is very stupid) gets the message and goes to find a priest to exorcise the demon. And guess who the priest is? (Laughter) You know, working with a bike is the same motivation as working with R2-D2, it is a radio-controlled machine – and it is just as stupid as R2 is! (Laughter) Nothing would work, then suddenly it would work. And it could be a kind of dangerous thing because it had these sharp stakes on it. At one point it actually did attack me. I thought that it had stopped, then it suddenly let forward and its horns came up and gouged the wall where I had been standing! It was kind of exciting!
The first thing that the bike does to me in the movie, is that it chops my fingers off! Now, what I hadn’t realized was that, if we had let it chop off the fingers on my right hand, I would spend the rest of the movie not being able to pick anything up or even open a door. So, anyway, I had to go through all that and then there’s a big exorcism scene where the bike fights back! I’m getting everything hurled at me – I won’t tell you the end, but I’m a pretty good guy and I suffer a lot. It was enormous fun. It’s great fun being dressed up as a priest, because everyone sort of respects you. Except I was known as the “comedy vicar” around the set, because it was a funny film as well as being a sort of a horror.
The other thing that I’ve done is to actually move into being a producer. I was line producer of a BBC [production ? note to self: check original transcription] which I think won Best Art Documentary last year in New York. So that was nice. That was the first real production I’ve done. Now, I’m producer on a historical film/theater event that is to go into a building right by Westminster Abby, right by the House of Parliament in central London. It combines everything that I know from film and theatre with laser effects and special effects. Hopefully it will give people a bit of an experience! This is the first of several similar projects that the company is lining up. And that’s quite fun! I also have another video documentary in pre-production and I’m acting at the same time.
So you basically wear more than one hat entertainment-wise.
I actually wear lots of hats! It’s quite weird. Some of my friends can’t quite deal with it. (Laughter) At the same time, I run my own business life, I go scuba-diving, I’m the secretary for the scuba-diving club and I’m going skiing in a couple of weeks. So I’m kind of…
A man of many talents…?
A man of many parts – a fragmented person is how I would put it! (Laughter)
Anthony, in addition to a Jedi radio series and new episodes of Droids, would you also like to play C-3PO in more Star Wars films when they are made?
Oh yes! I still love contact with the character. I also think that the Lucasfilm magazine is quite good. I read them constantly! [Nearly two and a half decades after this interview, Anthony returned to playing C-3PO in new Star Wars films produced by Disney, while back in the early 1990s, this interview was intended for publication in The Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine, which was later re-titled Star Wars Insider]
Voice of Mungo Baobab in
“The Adventures of Mungo Baobab” episodes in the animated Droids and the Droids Special: The Great Heep
Perhaps best known to television audiences for his title role in the popular CBS series Adderly, Winston Rekert earned his first Genie Award nomination for Best Actor in a Dramatic Film with his earlier performance in the Canadian period drama Suzanne. Winston has starred in a variety of other films which include High Stakes (1986), The Blue Man (also known as Eternal Evil), Your Ticket Is No Longer Valid, Toby McTeague, Agnes of God, The Columbian Connection (aka Dead Wrong) and Love. His performances in the 1982 film Heartaches and the 1984 drama Walls (aka Lock Up) also led to Genie Award nominations for Best Actor. Winston’s numerous television roles include appearances in The Great Detective, Danger Bay, So the Story Goes, Constable John Constable, Sidestreet, The Manipulators, Dude, Marooned in the Land God Gave to Cain, Orchard Children, Night Heat, Romance, House of Pride, Beachcombers, Coming Out Alive, Ryder’s Magic, the six-part mini-series Brothers By Choice and Lindsay Anderson’s two-part HBO TV movie Glory! Glory!. For his role as V.H. Adderly, Winston won the 1987 Genie Award for Best Actor in a Continuing Television Drama Series. Having formed a production company with producer Danny Virtue, Winston stars as Dr. Michael Terry in their popular television series Neon Rider. Before Winston became known to fans as V.H. Adderly, he was the voice of the galactic merchant-adventurer Mungo Baobab in the animated Droids series and The Droids Special: The Great Heep.
Winston, how did you first get into acting?
Well, I sort of got into it by default. My mom was involved in amateur theater when I was growing up. At the time, she was doing a Christmas pageant called Amahl annd the Night Visitors. They had it all cast, except that they couldn’t find anyone to play Amahl. So my mom suggested that I read for the part. I tried out and I got it! So that was my start. I went on to do a lot of theater in Vancouver, well into the ’70s. I then wanted to pursue doing film and television more. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any real film industry happening in Vancouver at that time – as opposed to today. So, I had to go to Toronto, which is the main Canadian city for that kind of work. When I moved there, I had a large resumé of theater work, but with the old West coast / East-coast rivalry – it didn’t mean much. So I was poor and unemployed for quite a while. Then I got the lead in a film called Suzanne.
You were the voice of Mungo Baobab in “The Adventures of Mungo Baobab”, the final four-episode story-arc of Droids and The Droids Special: The Great Heep (which chronologically takes place before those four episodes, but was released the year after they aired).
Yeah, I had a lot of fun doing those! I’ve done radio drama, but I’ve never done cartoons before. It was really exciting! To be the voice of some other creature that’s out there, one that has already been drawn by someone, was really interesting. You sort of look at the character and you try to figure out how his voice would sound. It was really a lot of fun!
After Droids, you starred in Adderly. Would you like to see V.H. Adderly’s adventures continue?
Yeah, I think that it would be a lot of fun to continue it as a feature film or a series of TV movies specials. I have a lot of good feelings about Adderely. The fans were terrific and all of the people involved with the show was were really special to work with. Everybody that I’ve talked to likes the idea of continuing Adderly. The cast members and the producer in Los Angeles, Jerry Golod… they all want to do the show again. I think at this point, it’s up to generating enough interest with the networks before we actually go ahead with it.
What inspired your latest [in the early 1990s] television series Neon Rider?
Well, we were just basically looking for a vehicle that would use a lot of elements that would hook together the public and young kids with the problems of today. There are a lot of kids out there that are abused, hooked on drugs and booze that are subjected to an extreme sense of pressure – and others that are homeless, hungry and lonely….! I’ve become more and more involved in working with youth groups across Canada that deal with these sort of problems. The more that I’ve been doing with these groups, the more I’ve realized that these are major concerns that we can address in the series. I wanted to use some of the case histories that I’ve been exposed to and try to do more hard-hitting, fact-based stories dealing with real situations and real recovery. We want to show how kids really face the problems that they have and how they deal with recovering from them – which isn’t always easy.
As co-creator, co-story consultant and co-executive producer, you are very involved with the production of Neon Rider. Is it difficult to do all of that and play the lead character as well?
Sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming. The first year was a little more difficult, but I’m looking forward to the new season. In the first year of a series, there are so many different elements that you have to try and fit into one area. Each show has its own rhythm and its own pacing. It takes almost the first year of any series to figure out completely how the characters fit in and what works best for the momentum of that particular show and the groups of people in it. So we’re kind of eager to take the series a bit farther now.
Since the final episode of Droids ended on a cliff-hanger, would you like to come back as Mungo Baobab if the animated series were to return?
Oh yeah! It would be a lot of fun to do Mungo again!