A Harmless Omission Made C-3PO's Star Wars Casting A Bit Awkward

According to the Oxford Learner's Dictionary, the word "cast," merely as a verb, has 11 different definitions. The first verb is the one meaning "to look over," as in "cast a glance at." The second is the verb meaning to project light over something, i.e. "cast a shadow." 

It's not until the fifth definition that one arrives at the word meaning "hire an actor for a part," as in "Anthony Daniels was cast as C-3PO in 'Star Wars.'" The eleventh definition is the verb meaning "pour liquid into a mold for the sake of duplicating a 3-D object," as in "casting in plaster."

Back in the mid-1970s, when Daniels was working his way through the audition process for "Star Wars," there was some unfortunate confusion between definition #5 and definition #11. The actor was one of the final actors being considered to play the droid C-3PO, the prissy, mannered translation robot. To play the part, of course, would require Daniels to be fitted with a full-body, skin-tight android costume. The actor still needed to report to the costume department for an elaborate full-body fitting. Although Daniels hadn't yet landed the part, a little accidental semantic bumbling led him prematurely to think he had. 

The confusion is elucidated upon in J.W. Rinzler's invaluable book "The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film," available in print and in a 2013 Enhanced Edition that includes video and audio interviews. According to that book, Daniels signed his contract as early as December 5, 1975, but that was after a moment when a secretary informed him that he could come in "to be cast." 

Cast? Or cast?

Cast in plaster

Daniels remembered the little linguistic error when talking to production secretary Patricia Carr and producer Robert Watts. They wanted to cast him in a body mold, not in the role of C-3PO. He said: 

"When I went back for the second interview, Pat Carr, the production secretary, asked when could I go to the studios to be cast. [...] She meant 'cast in plaster,' so I said I hadn't been cast in the part yet. She seemed slightly embarrassed and so did Robert Watts. I thought that was a bit strange." 

Of course, as it so happened, there was a double confusion. It seems that Daniels, when he learned he didn't have the role yet, went to the director to plead his case. It wouldn't be until later that Daniels would learn that Lucas had indeed already cast him as C-3PO sometime earlier. The secondary confusion, however, can be blamed on Daniels' secretive talent agent. He said: 

"... I went in and talked to George again for about an hour, and I asked him, 'Can't I play it, because I'd really like to.' And he said yes. It was just a gas. It was like winning a prize. But I later found out that Lucas had cast me the first time — and my agent hadn't wanted to tell me about it in case I hated the whole idea! So I was excited about the whole thing and started going to the studios to have the costume made."

One will do well to recall that "Star Wars" was looked upon with a lot of skepticism by the Hollywood system back when it was still in production. As such, it makes sense that Daniels' agent would offer their client an "out," just in case he changed his mind.

He didn't.