C-3PO (often shortened to Threepio) is a fictional robotic character existing in the Star Wars universe. Known to his closest friends as Goldenrod, Threepio is a prissy protocol droid who, despite living millions of light years from Earth billions of years ago, appears to have some sort of English accent (along with the usual accompanying British charm). He is rarely seen without his robot buddy, R2-D2; the two, surprisingly, played vital and pivotal roles in the galaxy's history.
C-3PO is one of the few Star Wars characters to be played by the same actor, acting robot Anthony Daniels, in every film that he appears in. He is notable for being the first "alternative lifestyle" robot to appear in a major motion picture, as well as being one of the only characters to appear in each film in the Star Wars Ennealogy. Threepio is believed to be one of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars saga, along with Han Solo and Jar Jar Binks.
Early life (32–22 BBY)
C-3PO was built and activated on the desert world of Tatooine by young Anakin Skywalker. Due to Anakin's monetary situation, the droid was forced to endure the extremely sandy environment without any sort of protective coverings; this earned him the nickname of "Grinder" early in his existence. However, Anakin and his friends decided that this nickname "sounded too tough" for the robot, who prided himself on his flawless etiquette. Thus, that nickname was dropped, and he was re-christened "C-3PO" to reflect his love of both the Tatooine Post Office (TPO) and the board game Battleship. Since his master was a preadolescent male, Threepio's early life was filled with boring tasks such as cleaning Anakin's room and doing his homework, in order to allow Anakin to spend the maximum amount of time possible enjoying his favorite activities, such as pod-racing, nerf-herding, and building extremely sophisticated artificial intelligence units from scratch.
In 32 BBY, C-3PO met his heterosexual life mate, R2-D2, when an envoy from Coruscant came to Tatooine for a diplomatic sand-related visit. After Threepio introduced Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Liam Neeson to Anakin, they sensed that the boy was "special" due to some sort of unique viral infection that allows him to move objects with his mind. The two Jedi convinced Anakin to use his powers to cheat during a podrace, and with the help of Threepio and R2, he succeeded in doing so and won his freedom. Threepio did not accompany Anakin to his next destination, staying behind with Ani's mother Shmi, although he did earn enough cash through betting on him in the podrace to afford some stylish silver daywear.
Clone Wars era (22–19 BBY)
In 22 BBY, Shmi was kidnapped by a group of Tusken Raiders. Sensing that his mother was in danger, Anakin, now a whiny teen Jedi Padawan, traveled with his girlfriend Padmé Amidala to Tatooine, where they reunited with C-3PO. Threepio recognized Master Anakin instantly and, after giving him a bear hug, presented the two to Anakin's awkward stepfamily, who told him what had transpired. When Anakin returned from the Tusken camp with his mother's body, Threepio courteously attended her funeral — unaware that his master had previously gone kamikaze on innocent Tusken women and children.
After Anakin and Padmé's visit to Tatooine, C-3PO accompanied them to the planet Geonosis to rescue Obi-Wan Kenobi, now Anakin's master. Upon landing, Threepio followed R2-D2 into a droid factory, where he engaged in all kinds of wacky slapstick and had his head temporarily attached to the torso of a battle droid. Influenced by the battle droid's programming, Threepio reluctantly fought against the Jedi, where he got his head knocked off by Kit Fisto. After having his head dragged through the sand by R2, Threepio was restored to his normal body and left Geonosis with the other protagonists. Later, he was a witness to Padmé and Anakin's chemistry-free marriage on Naboo.
During the Clone Wars, C-3PO served as Padmé's personal protocol droid. He was a reluctant participant in many of Padmé's adventures, most of which resulted in him being buried under 50 feet of snow or getting his head blown off. In 20 BBY, Padmé put her wealth to use and replaced Threepio's dingy silver plates with shiny golden ones. In 19 BBY, Threepio saw firsthand his master throwing a hissyfit and becoming Sith Lord Darth Vader. Losing his temper, Anakin Force-choked his pregnant wife into oblivion, whereupon Threepio and R2 took her to safety. Threepio then surprisingly piloted Padmé's ship to Polis Massa, and witnessed her giving birth to her twins — Luke and Leia — before she popped her clogs shortly afterward.
After the whole ordeal was over, C-3PO and R2-D2 entered the service of the famous Raymus Antilles, captain of the Tantive IV spaceship. In order to protect Luke and Leia from their father — and also to prevent plot holes or inconsistencies with the original trilogy — Threepio's memory was wiped clean.
Imperial era (19–0 BBY)
One of the most extensively-researched characters in the Star Wars saga, Captain Antilles used the droids in a number of ways during his well-documented exploits. After four whirlwind years of galactic parties and space-hookers, Antilles fell on hard times and pawned the robots for booze money. C-3PO and R2-D2 served several masters in their fifteen years after parting ways with Antilles, as documented in the campy '80s Saturday morning cartoon Star Wars: Droids. However, at no time during this subsequent service did they partake in anything remotely interesting, until they were inexplicably re-obtained by Antilles just in time for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
In 0 BBY, after narrowly escaping an attacking Imperial force, Threepio and R2 were jettisoned from their spacecraft, which was conveniently in extremely close proximity to the planet Tatooine. After being abducted by Jawas and sold to a dirt-poor moisture farming family, R2 played a stunningly futuristic-looking holographic message featuring Princess Leia Organa, a feisty diplomat from Alderaan, in front of impoverished farmhand Luke Skywalker. After deciding to scour the universe for this girl in order to "ask her out", Luke and the droids headed over to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters, then seek out Old Ben Kenobi.
The trio found "Ben", better known as Obi-Wan Kenobi, drowning his sorrows at a local cantina. C-3PO and Kenobi did not, of course, recognize each other from their earlier encounters. After helping an inebriated Kenobi to sober up, the now-formidable group hired noted smuggler Han Solo to take them to Alderaan. During the journey, while Threepio was instructing Skywalker on the basics of the human emotion called "love", Kenobi sensed that the Imperial peacekeeping station known as the Death Star has destroyed Alderaan, yet it was too late to avoid being pulled in by the tractor beam of the massive double-hemisphere.
After hiding from stormtroopers searching for occupants or contraband, Skywalker and Solo stole two stormtrooper outfits and the party made their way into a control room of the space station. After realizing that his would-be girlfriend is also on the Death Star, Luke rushed off to awkwardly force conversation, with Solo in close pursuit in order to be entertained by said awkward interaction. After Kenobi wandered off in a drunken stupor, muttering something about "tracking bees", Threepio and R2 were left alone in the control room. Eventually, stormtroopers forced the door open and one rushed in, banging his head in the process.
Galactic Civil War era (0–4 ABY)
After banging his head, the stormtrooper yelled loudly in anger, and then questioned the droids. C-3PO convinced him to head for Princess Leia's holding cell if he wanted to see some intense rejection go down. After the trooper ran off, Threepio and R2-D2 wandered around the Death Star for a few hours, eventually stumbling across the waste management mainframe at the exact moment that the rest of their party needs their help escaping from some sort of garbage compactor. Upon reuniting and blasting their way out of the Death Star (without Kenobi, who had brazenly challenged evil robot Darth Vader to a space-fencing match and then proceeded to lose it in spectacular fashion), Threepio's role in the Rebellion quieted down for a while while other people (most notable among them being Wedge Antilles) succeeded in destroying the Death Star, bringing peace to the galaxy, and sending Darth Vader spinning off into space at such an incredible rate of speed that he could not return until a sequel was in the works, at the very earliest.
For the next three years, C-3PO's main task was to keep Princess Leia's many outfits dry while they were both stationed on the frigid ice planet Hoth. After the Rebel base there was destroyed, he accompanied Leia and Han Solo to Cloud City on Bespin. It was here that Threepio had one of his many "dismemberment incidents" when he was blasted by a stormtrooper. After being poorly reconstructed by a mentally disabled wookiee, the party escaped the clutches of the diabolical space-pirate Lando Calrissian.
C-3PO's defining moment came in 4 ABY, when he accompanied an attack party to the forest moon of Endor. While planning their attack on the newly rebuilt Death Star's shield generators, the entire group (consisting of Rebel troops, armed mercenaries, a skilled Jedi, and vicious attack droids) was kidnapped by small muppet-like creatures armed with pointed sticks. Mistaking Threepio for a golden deity, the so-called "Ewoks" began to prepare a feast in honor of their newfound god, in which his companions were to be the primary ingredient. Initially delighted, Threepio realized that he would have to take a space-taxi home if they ate his ride, and so he convinced the primitive bear-like creatures to dine on the periphery characters only.
After the Rebels succeeded in destroying the shield generator (again with the help of Ewok technology such as logs, rocks, and logs with ropes attached to them used to fend off the elite imperial guards armed with laser guns, body armor, and steel-titanium alloy mechanized cavalry units), C-3PO remained behind for a while on Endor in order to enjoy "being a deity" for just a bit longer.
New Republic era (4–∞ ABY)
Not much is known of C-3PO's exploits after the Rebellion's success, mostly due to constant changes in his appearance. No longer satisfied with his golden finish, he opted for a more laid-back "Foghat Grey" for a few years, during which time he enjoyed great success playing the bass in a space-robot-band called "The Droids You're Looking For".
After that, Threepio realized that a change in color allowed him freedoms he could never have believed, although previous acquaintances always recognized him due to his obvious accent. Thus, he stayed out of the spotlight and undertook no great adventures for many space-years. However, it is believed that Threepio played a minor role (and also may have ridden shotgun) in the Millennium Falcon during Han Solo's personal best Kessel Run.
Personality and traits
During his life, C-3PO served many masters and had many fantastic adventures. Unfortunately, only the most boring were transferred onto the big screen by George Lucas. As a protocol droid, Threepio's main functions were to assist with translations during meetings involving different cultures and to serve as a customs official, although from time to time he would act as a butler for some of the galaxy's most elegant black tie affairs (using his friend R2-D2 as a mobile cocktail tray, of course). Unfortunately for Threepio, his shiny golden finish rendered him an easy target both for skilled Imperial shooters and jittery Rebellion troops, causing him to lose his limbs and lower torso regularly throughout his life.
Behind the scenes
One of the major problems Star Wars creator, writer, director, producer, chief accountant, and key grip George Lucas encountered during the production of the first Star Wars film in 1977 was finding a way to realistically portray a humanoid cyborg on-screen. At the time, the technology for making humans look like robots simply did not exist. After wrestling with the concept for several weeks, Lucas fired both the head of costume department as well as the casting director, re-assigning both positions to himself, and asking "We have lasers and explosions and special effects out the ass! Is it really that hard to have a robot!?" After much contemplation, Lucas came up with the idea of having an actual humanoid robot play the part of the humanoid robot in the film. "It was so insane" he says of the idea, "that it just might work."
An open casting call was held for all acting robots, with many famous artificial intelligence units showing up seeking their shot at stardom, or at least a steady paycheck. Some famous names were considered for the role, including the Act-motronTM. Lucas came close to offering the role to future film star Keanu Reeves, but in the end it was decided that Reeves was slightly too young of a robot to play the part. In the end, the role was offered to an unknown acting unit named Anthony Daniels, who had previously played only minor parts on Robot-Broadway. Daniels was thrilled to receive the role, promising everything the director was looking for. Lucas's only remarks concerning the casting decision were "I really wanted a gold robot. He was the only one who showed up."
- Time in the Star Wars universe is reckoned using as a basis the exact moment in Episode IV: A New Hope when the stormtrooper entering the control room on the Death Star bangs his head on the door and yells. Using this system, events occurring before this moment are designated BBY (before bang/yell), and events after ABY.
- It is explained by George Lucas on the commentary track of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith that, at the exact time of the parting of Obi-Wan from C-3PO and R2-D2, a solar flare or cosmic ray of some sort (or possibly The Force) caused Kenobi to forget his entire history, except for that between him and Vader.