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Members of the crew shade and shine Daniels, the only cast member to appear in all nine of the Skywalker films, while BB-8 looks on.

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

“I was a very serious actor and I thought it was all a bit beneath me,” C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels told Vanity Fairs Lev Grossman, reflecting back on how it all started with him and Star Wars. His face—always hidden behind that gleaming golden mask—may not be instantly recognizable to most fans, but Daniels, with his clear, clipped voice, is the only actor to appear in every single Star Wars film to date. As revealed from interviews for Vanity Fairs exclusive Rise of Skywalker cover story, the protocol droid that Anakin Skywalker built will truly get a chance to shine in Decembers final installment of the Skywalker saga.

The powers that be at Lucasfilm have made no secret of the fact that the original plan for the current Star Wars trilogy was to highlight one “legacy” cast member in each of the films. The Force Awakens belonged to Harrison Fords Han Solo. Mark Hamills Luke Skywalker stepped into the spotlight for The Last Jedi, while Episode IX was meant to belong to Carrie Fishers Leia. When Fisher died after filming The Last Jedi, those plans changed. Though director J.J. Abrams still found a creative way to involve Leia in the closing chapter of the Skywalker saga, it may be C-3PO who, surprisingly enough, steps up to fulfill that legacy role.

Daniels is not the only actor representing Star Wars history in this new film—Billy Dee Williams makes a welcome return as the dashing Lando Calrissian. But as Daisy Ridley stressed, “We worked with Anthony a lot, like, Anthony is really part of this adventure.” Ridley, who got to spend time with Ford, Fisher, and Hamill in their previous appearances, said that The Rise of Skywalker was “the most Id ever worked with Anthony, and he was really there—mostly every day. So it didnt feel like the legacy wasnt there. It felt like we were very connected to the original ones actually. Really connected.”

Daniels never expected a more central role in the film, but shortly before production began, he started to hear rumblings that C-3PO might have a bit more to do in this adventure than fuss and serve up some timely exposition. “We had an inaugural dinner in London and all the main people were saying, Youve got a wonderful part in this,” Daniels recalled. ”And I go, Yeah, but what is it?!”

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Following the secrecy protocol laid out by Lucasfilm, Daniels wasnt about to spill any spoilers, but fans have already seen him right in the thick of the adventure with Rey, Finn, and Poe in the Rise of Skywalker trailer. Keeping a lid on things feels especially painful for him this time around. “You have no idea,” he told Grossman. “Its frustrating for you that I cannot tell you the complete truth; its frustrating for me as well because Im dying to say.” Daniels could reveal, at least, that C-3PO does something in this movie that surprises everybody, as Grossman writes.

Williams—who has witnessed Daniels in action over the decades—seemed more inclined to want to talk about C-3PO than he was Lando. (Maybe to avoid spilling any beans himself.) “I just want to say something about Anthonys performance,” Williams told Grossman. “He has managed to—as a human entity, hes managed to bring life to a lot of metal parts. For an actor to be able to have that kind of power and spirit is pretty incredible.”

Starting with The Force Awakens, Daniels got a significant upgrade to his metal suit with a 3-D-printed version that turned a “wretched” and uncomfortable performance experience from the original trilogy into something much more conducive to simply breathing, let alone acting.

While Daniels wouldnt reveal exactly what surprise C-3PO has in store, he was eager to stress that its not entirely out of character for the prim-and-proper droid. Writer Chris Terrio, Daniels said, “has steeped himself in the lore of old Star Wars and has come out of it almost like an original draftsman from those early days.” So those looking for a flavor of the original trilogy to go hand-in-hand with the new generation should keep their eyes on Daniels—even if they cant see his face under that 3PO mask.

For more, read Lev Grossmans cover story about the latest adventure in the galaxy far, far away, and keep coming back to VF.com for even more details from behind the scenes. The summer issue of Vanity Fair will be on newsstands in New York and Los Angeles on May 30, and nationally on June 4.

Full ScreenPhotos:Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Photos: Meet the Characters and Go on SetPreviousNext

HOT TAKE
Members of the crew shade and shine Daniels, the only cast member to appear in all nine of the Skywalker films, while BB-8 looks on.Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.
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