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Anthony Daniels Star Wars - A Musical Journey Interview
Reported by James on 22 Mar 2009 12:00

From Kerrang to Radio 2 and then to Jedi News - Anthony Daniels was kind enough to give us half an hour of his time.  We discussed Star Wars - A Musical Journey amongst other things which will be his biggest live gig yet - playing in front of 20,000 people at the O2 Arena on the 10th and 11th April..

Read on for our full interview with Anthony...

JN - Hi Anthony, how are you?

AD - I’m ok thank you.  It’s rather a nice day.  In fact it’s been rather a good week.  I was at the O2 yesterday for the first time as a ‘member of staff’ as it were.  Have you been there?

JN - Yes, when it was the Dome.

AD - It was rubbish!

JN - (Chuckles in agreement)

AD - Well, now they’ve taken all of that out and they’ve put seats and a stage in and I loved it, and I stood centre stage, by myself, in an empty... I had the whole place to myself.  It was just magic.  I had a huge feeling of power actually.  I think in the next Star Wars films I shall become Darth Vader or the Emperor, I’m fed up of playing a nice guy.

JN - So how are you feeling about standing on stage in front of 20,000 people?

AD - Curiously, there’s something in my brain that says that’s ok.  It’s standing in front of 20 that I find very nervous-making.  I am actually very excited, as you can imagine.  The biggest audience I’ve had for a concert so far was 14,000 in America and I coped with that, and more importantly they coped with me.  But of course the privilege of being allowed to stand up in front of everybody and say things, that’s all I’m doing, is very unusual and it’s quite a buzz.

JN - I think it’s a huge privilege, that after having been in all six films, along with the Clone Wars film and series, it’s a huge accolade to be asked to do this.

AD - Don’t worry, I feel it!  To work with one of the top orchestras is like they’re saying that I’m good enough to come and work with them.  It’s lovely actually.  You don’t get compliments every day of your life and I feel very complimented about this.

JN - So in the press release announcing you as narrator for Star Wars – A Musical Journey, it stated that you’ll be narrating as yourself and not 3PO.

AD - Yes, enough of 3PO for the time being, although we are about to embark on some more Clone Wars obviously... I love the animation, I’m just fascinated by the art work, it’s just beautiful.

JN - I’m really enjoying the Clone Wars too.  I think it’s opening up a whole new audience of children.

AD - Yes, and then they’ll grow into the films and then my job is secure for the rest of my life you see...!

JN - Will we hear 3PO’s dulcet tones at all during the narration?

AD - I don’t know... What do you think?

JN - I hope so...

AD - Well, it’s really an evening of Anthony Daniels being there, but of course 3PO is so irrepressible you cannot keep him out of things.  If there’s talking going on, I dare say there might be some sort of reminder of who I played all these years.  It would be cruel not to, wouldn’t it?

JN - Completely, I think everybody will expect it.

AD - (Laughs), they may be surprised that I speak in a normal voice normally, (“hey, that’s not him, he doesn’t sound like 3PO”) and I will not be in the gold suit, just as I’m not when I do the Clone Wars.  One of the things that I’ve found when I’ve been looking through my archives the other day, was a picture of 3PO conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in 1978 at the Albert Hall with John Williams and now they’re not letting me conduct Star Wars.  Which sounds a bit cruel – maybe I got it wrong?  That was the greatest night of my life and that only holds around 8,000 people but it still lives in my memory.

JN - Have you seen the script yet?

AD - Have I seen the script yet?  Are you kidding?  This has been three years in the making.  I’m on draft nine, and that’s my draft, so it came to me as something like draft thirteen and now I’m on my edits, number nine, and yes, in fact I carry it with me wherever I go.  Would you like me to read you a bit?  [Thumbs through pages]  What shall I read?  It’s probably all very secret, you know?  But I’ve been working on the scripts solidly now, I got a draft that was workable about three weeks ago I suppose.  I’m sure it’s all secret!  [From the script] “Perhaps the greatest exponent of this mystical art was already 900 years old, a diminutive green-skinned Jedi Master known simply as Yoda."  What it is, is about sixteen pieces of narration introducing roughly ten, twelve pieces of specially woven film so that material’s been taken from the movies themselves and put into different order, it’s taken from documentaries, it’s taken from photographs, from production stills, concept drawings and all woven very cleverly into something that evokes a general idea and wakes your memories and gives you new ideas and all the time in sync with the music.  And the music is live.  And this, I think, is terrifying, because when I watched them doing the scoring sessions at Abbey Road Studios they can go back and do it again if it doesn’t quite fit.  If the big ‘boom’ doesn’t happen when the explosion happens you just go back and do it again a bit faster.  You can tell how much I know about music.

JN - I don’t know if you know, but when they did Fantasia 2000. Roy Disney brought that over to the Albert Hall and they did the same thing, a live orchestra playing whilst the film was being shown, in perfect sync.

AD - They are very skilled musicians to be able to do this.  They had a rehearsal in LA last week which they’re absolutely thrilled about, and in a couple of weeks I’ll be rehearsing with them in Elstree on the George Lucas soundstage.  So we set the whole thing up somewhere else, cos other people tend to use the O2, so we’ll actually be doing a lot of rehearsals to get it right.  And the funny thing is about the script, is that when I read it I’ve changed another word, or two words and then sometimes John Williams sends back “I prefer this word than that word.”  The English language is very precise, as 3PO will tell you!

JN - Is John going to be there on the night?

AD - No, I don’t think so, I believe he’s busy, sadly, but I’m sure he’ll see it somewhere else.  I’m amazed, you know, that every time I do something with Star Wars I think, you know, that’s it, and then other things come up like the Clone Wars.  The Clone Wars came out of wherever, and I’m looking forward to doing some more of those, plus the concerts, and then, who knows where it’s going to go from there?  This year is now becoming so busy; I am really having to structure things carefully so that things don’t collide.  Because as well as all this Star Wars stuff I actually teach at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and I’m going back there shortly.  And then I’m doing something that I wish I could tell you about... but I can’t, although it is Star Wars related.  I think one of the important things to remember is that if you are involved in a project it’s kind of nice if the audience or the public hear it as a surprise when it happens, not to give people sneaky inside stuff because it just spoils the surprise.

JN - I think I know what you’re talking about...

AD - Beyond interesting!

JN - Will the British fans get to see you at a convention this year?

AD - Well, I’m going to Sweden in about a week or two weeks, and that’s about the nearest.  I kind of don’t do many conventions because I don’t think people realise that it’s quite a lot of pressure.  In general, I find the fans appreciative and certainly the big [Celebration] events that we did in Japan, Europe and America made me realise just how much the fans genuinely care.

JN - So, how do you learn the script?

AD - I put it on in the gym in front of me in the mornings when I’m on the running machine instead of watching TV and I memorise my lines that way.  It’s quite a lot to do.

JN - Are you excited about it?

AD - I am rather.  You know, I’m 63 years old and it’s nice to be excited by something.  I do hope that people will get what live music sounds like and actually maybe go to a concert which doesn’t have film in it, and realise that it’s not boring just like going to museums where when I was ten years old and I never really wanted to go to really boring places, and classical music and ballet imply ‘boring things’.  It’s not at all.  You have to gentle people into going in.  And then, maybe, you know, they’re set up for life.  At the concerts I hosted in America I would be able to see kids of five years old sitting absolutely dumbstruck by people making music for them.  Do you listen to much music?

JN - Yes, I love all sorts of music, as do my children, we have an eclectic taste which covers everything from classical music to Queen.

AD - I've actually chosen a piece of Queen music for a Radio 2 show I'm doing tomorrow, they're one of my favourites.  I love music and I’ve turned into one of those people, I’m afraid, with an iPod in my ear because on aeroplanes it’s wonderful, you can take the stuff you like and Queen is on there and in fact I made a total prat of myself the other day because I didn’t realise as I was yelling along to “I Want To Break Free” that people were looking at me.  You can get awfully carried away.  But I also have Dvorak’s Eight Symphony which is my current absolute obsession.  I’ve actually realised that I feel humbled by being with the orchestra because we all turn up and then they really do something and they get their instruments out and really make it work.  And I just stand there and speak!

JN - But that’s something as well, that’s your talent, and that’s what people love and respect you for.

AD - I’m not being coy but compared with what they can do, what I do is fairly minor.  But I’m sure they’ll be very nice about it; it also, of course, gives them time to get their breath back from the last piece of music which is quite important.

JN - Thank you very much for your time, and we hope to catch up with you again in the next few weeks.

AD - Thank you.

You can follow Anthony at both his Official Website and on Twitter.

Anthony Daniels Interview Copyright 2009 Jedi News. No part of this interview can be reproduced without prior written consent from Jedi News.

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