How Droids Hold The 'Star Wars' Universe Together

Dec 20, 2019
Originally published on December 20, 2019 7:23 am
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(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "MARCH OF THE RESISTANCE")

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

"Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker" is in theaters. That is confirmed. I went on my way to work last night to see it. I'm still jealous, though, of my colleague Mandalit del Barco, who earlier this week got to cover the film's premiere on Hollywood Boulevard.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: R2-D2.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: At the premiere, the franchise's original droids, C-3PO and R2-D2, arrived in style.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As C-3PO) Hello. Come along, R2.

DEL BARCO: Then the roly-poly droid BB-8 and its small new sidekick, D-O, rolled by.

Are you excited for the movie?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As BB-8, beeping).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As D-O, beeping).

DEL BARCO: The droids in the "Star Wars" universe come in many shapes and sizes. Some are diplomats, scouts, spies or nannies; others are mechanics, surgeons' assistants, pilots or even assassins. At the premiere, actor John Boyega, who plays the storm trooper turned resistance fighter Finn, and Doug Chiang, who oversees designs for all of "Star Wars," talked about their favorite droids.

JOHN BOYEGA: BB-8 because BB-8 can move with you anywhere. I'm sure that there are some other capabilities. I'm sure there's a USB dock in there.

DOUG CHIANG: R2-D2 - he has such charm. And, you know, there's so much depth to him.

DEL BARCO: Chiang is vice president and executive creative director at Lucasfilm.

CHIANG: I love droids because, I mean, you can really imbue them with a lot of character traits in terms of how they look, how they perform, how they speak.

DEL BARCO: J.J. Abrams directed and co-wrote this final film. He says he admires George Lucas' template of the hero's journey, accompanied by many allies, including droids. Each has their own personality, at times offering comic relief.

J J ABRAMS: The fun of the droids, first of all, because they're not human, the audience, I think, connects with them, strangely, perhaps even in a deeper way. And I think that there's something about having R2 not speaking a language any of us can understand that makes that dynamic particularly funny.

DEL BARCO: For "The Force Awakens," Abrams came up with the idea and design of BB-8. For this film, Abrams lent his voice to the character D-O, a puppy-like droid who was mistreated in the past.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER")

ABRAMS: (As D-O, unintelligible).

DEL BARCO: Abrams says droids are so key that in the original 1977 movie "A New Hope," R2-D2 and C-3PO were the very first characters shown on screen.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE")

ANTHONY DANIELS: (As C-3PO) Did you hear that?

KENNY BAKER: (As R2-D2, beeping).

DANIELS: (As C-3PO) They shot down the main reactor. We'll be destroyed for sure. This is madness.

ABRAMS: These characters were the way in and, you know, you were laughing with them before you were screaming about Vader. You know, these were the characters that told you this is going to be fun. And 3-PO's never had a role in "Star Wars" quite as extensive and important as he does in this film.

DEL BARCO: British actor and mime Anthony Daniels plays C-3PO, a gold-plated protocol droid programmed for human-cyborg relations.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: EPISODE VI - RETURN OF THE JEDI")

DANIELS: (As C-3PO) I am fluent in over six million forms of communication and can readily...

RICHARD MARQUAND: (As EV-9D9) Splendid.

DEL BARCO: C-3PO eventually upgraded to seven million forms of communication. Despite his offended British butler demeanor, Daniels says he wanted to make him relatable.

DANIELS: He is an archetypal common man. He is the put upon powerless creature that must go through life, existence, whatever, being dealt blows by forces far greater than he will ever wield himself.

DEL BARCO: Over the years, C-3PO has endured many indignities. Despite his character's bickering with R2-D2, the actor Daniels says he enjoyed improvising with his friend's robotic baby gurgles and bleeps.

DANIELS: Droids are fun, and they can be cheeky and wibble (ph) about and they're almost like having a pet on the set, you know. There is something intrinsically attractive about most droids, not all of them.

DEL BARCO: Daniels remembers the first day of filming "Star Wars" in 1976 on location in the Tunisian desert that doubled as a planet, Tatooine.

DANIELS: It was gruesome, my first experience with the suit. We were in a really weird place. Everything went wrong. Nobody believed in what we were doing, except George Lucas. Though working with Mark Hamill was a sweet experience.

DEL BARCO: Now that the Skywalker saga is ending, Daniels is nostalgic. He's the only actor who has been in all 11 "Star Wars" movies.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER")

OSCAR ISAAC: (As Poe Dameron) What are you doing there, 3PO?

DANIELS: (As C-3PO) Taking one last look, sir, at my friends.

DEL BARCO: And in the words of one of his old friends, General Leia Organa, never underestimate a droid. Mandalit Del Barco, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "FINALE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.