Star Wars has a new, Lego-themed holiday special out, and it’s been well-received — unlike the original Star Wars Holiday Special, which has been considered a bad TV classic since it aired in November 1978. The notorious one-off spin-off is the stuff of legend, no less because it’s never been officially released on home video, forcing the morbidly curious to subsist on bootlegs and YouTube uploads. While it’s amused and horrified many over the decades, those who were actually involved feel very differently — among them one of its stars, C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels.
Daniels was one of many from the original cast who were obligated to do the special, and unlike the clearly not-having-it Harrison Ford, he at least had a metal helmet to block his winces. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he said it was clear from the shoot that what they were filming wouldn’t be an instant classic, at least not in the good sense.
“This thing was meant to be a happy Life Day,” he told EW, referring to the bizarre, hazily defined holiday the characters were meant to be fêting. “Then we’re in this giant set draped with black, it was just awful.”
It was like being at a weird funeral, you have to watch it on YouTube for the full horror. Watch the last 10 minutes, and you’ll see why [the new show] contrasts rather well and is rather fun. Poor Mark, poor Carrie, poor Harrison – you can see it on their faces! They’re gritting their teeth and it shows; they’re like hanging onto each other. I think people learn their lesson, and I think we may be on track to make a regular Life Day holiday special, and why not?”
Forty years later and Daniels is still playing C-3PO, including on the Lego Star Wars Holiday Special. In fact, the English actor, now 74, has no plans on retiring with his most legendary gig.
“Until I choose to retire, I would not be comfortable with [somebody else playing the character] because it wouldn’t be Threepio as I have known him for 40-something years,” Daniels said. “I don’t want that to happen while I’m still cognizant and able to do it because — and this is not me aggrandizing myself — he’s the way he is and he’s the way he is is because of me. And if I’m around, that’s the way it should stay. Eventually, I will leave this planet, and I want him to go on and somebody will take over as that’s the nature of show business. I would not like him to disappear from the galaxy, even though I have.”
In the meantime, it is the holidays, so it might do you good to track down the original Holiday Special, and bask at such sights as Bea Arthur tending bar, Harvey Korman cooking, several minutes at a time of unsubtitled Wookiie-speak, The Jefferson Starship rocking out for some reason, and Carrie Fisher singing John Williams’ main Star Wars theme, this time with lyrics. Shooting it may have felt like being at a funeral, but it didn’t exactly kill the franchise. But not for lack of trying.