One thing I love about the Star Wars universe is the way characters are coupled with each other. There’s Luke and Leia, Han and Chewie, Vader and Sidious – and, of course, R2D2 and C-3PO.
In a galaxy full of icons and iconic moments, these two droids are about as iconic as you can get. Hell, this duo is one of Sci-Fi’s all-round biggest icons – let alone Star Wars‘.
These two have lived through generations of amazing galactic adventures, always somehow caught up in the middle of everything.
Check out these facts about this iconic droid duo!
The design inspiration for R2-D2 caused a lawsuit between Universal & Fox.
George Lucas’s original design inspiration for R2-D2 came after the 1972 sci-fi flick Silent Running.
In Silent Running, there was a trio of droids called Huey, Duey and Louie, and George Lucas showed them to legendary concept artist Ralph McQuarrie who designed Artoo using them as inspiration.
The likeness of Artoo to Silent Running‘s trio of droids caused Universal Studios to kick off a lawsuit for breach of creative copyright issues.
However, the suit was quickly dropped by Universal when Fox levied a counter-sue. They pointed out the similarities between Universal’s Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars.
If you ask me, gonk droids look more like the Silent Running droids than astromech droids. Just sayin’…
Obi Wan remembered R2-D2 in A New Hope.
One of the little confusing plot points about A New Hope is how old Ben Kenobi claims to have no memory of Artoo, and acts as though he doesn’t recognize the droid.
However, we the audience know this isn’t the case from the prequels.
And as we also know, old Obi Wan is all for truths “from a certain point of view”. He simply states “I don’t seem to remember owning a droid” in his classic coy Obi Wan style – never stating he didn’t know Artoo specifically.
In the novel Star Wars: A New Hope – The Princess The Scoundrel and The Farmboy, Han looks over the falcon to see Ben beckon over Artoo whilst Luke is training with the lightsaber. The passage reads:
“The R2 unit moved to Ben’s side, as if it was his faithful pet. An image that was further reinforced by the old man stroking a hand over its domed head.
“It’s good to fly with you again, my old friend.” The old man said, so softly Han wasn’t sure he had heard him right.”
This little moment shared between Artoo and his old friend Obi Wan stunningly ties up a loose end in the original Star Wars outing.
R2-D2’s name came from the set of American Graffiti.
During the making of George Lucas’s 1973 film American Graffiti, he was in a room working on the Star Wars script and dozed off.
Whilst snoozing, sound editor Walter Murch called out for Reel 2, Dialogue Track 2, by the abbreviation of “R-2-D-2”.
Lucas awoke when he heard the request and asked Murch to repeat what he’d just said. After he heard it again he stated it was a “great name” and went back to work on his script.
It was sheer fluke that the plucky little foul-mouthed droid we all love was named R2-D2!
R2-D2 is George Lucas’ favorite character.
In the commentary for Revenge of the Sith, Lucas revealed that Artoo is his favorite Star Wars character.
He said that he always makes sure that he saves the day at least once every film, because he loves the droid so much.
The Phantom Menace: R2 repairs the shields on the Queen’s ship.
Attack of the Clones: He saves Padme from being melted in the droid foundry on Geonosis.
Revenge of the Sith: R2 operates the elevator for Obi Wan & Anakin – and he distracts Grievous so the two Jedi can retrieve their lightsabers, lest they become a fine addition in the General’s collection.
A New Hope: R2-D2 gets the Death Star plans to the Rebellion and stops the trash compactor.
Empire Strikes Back: R2 fixes the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon.
Return of the Jedi: R2-D2 smuggles Luke’s lightsaber to the Sarlacc pit and throws it to him when he’s fighting Jabba’s goons.
So yeah, when you think about all the heroic actions Artoo gets to do throughout the Lucas-era Star Wars films it should come as no surprise that Lucas has the biggest soft spot for Artoo over all the other characters!
R2-D2 and C-3PO were inspired by comic duo Laurel and Hardy.
The characters and the dynamic of the relationship the two droids share was heavily influenced by the slapstick comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.
When looking at the mischievous, bullish Artoo, next to the uptight and clumsy English Threepio, the parallels are quite easily drawn between Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
Anyone who knows a bit about Star Wars will also know that George Lucas was very inspired by Japanese films.
So it should come as no surprise that they were also influenced by the characters Tahei and Matashichi – two peasants from Akira Kurosawa’s 1958 film The Hidden Fortress.
Here, Lucas took influence from the way The Hidden Fortress is told from the perspective of the film’s lowliest characters, and aimed to bring this perspective to Star Wars through R2-D2 and C-3PO’s eyes.
Both R2-D2 & C-3PO have appeared in multiple films outside the Star Wars franchise.
As expected from two of Sci-Fi’s most recognizable icons, Artoo and Threepio have made many (non-canon) cameos over the years
Artoo appeared in both the 2009 Star Trek reboot and the 2013 sequel Star Trek Into Darkness, where he was briefly seen flying in some space debris.
In sci-fi classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Artoo can be seen on the underside of the alien ship, and he also makes minor cameo appearances in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and Ready Player One.
The duo appears in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where they are seen on the wall of the room containing the Ark in a hieroglyphic.
They also both also have a small cameo in the Wreck-It Ralph sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet.
The duo even appeared in an episode of Sesame Street together!
Artoo was initially supposed to be a main character in The Lego Movie, but was sadly written out when its creators couldn’t obtain the rights to use him.
C-3PO is actually now fluent in over seven million forms of communication!
“I am C-3PO, human-cyborg relations and I am fluent in over six million forms of communication!”
Now that is a line any Star Wars fan has heard… well, probably a good six million times!
I doubt there’s a Star Wars film that goes by without hearing Threepio say that line. Heck, other than telling people (especially Han Solo) the odds, I’d say it’s the closest he has to a catchphrase!
However, in the gulf between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, Threepio’s TranLang III communication module was upgraded.
So he can now communicate in over seven million forms of communication.
When do you think we’ll hear him brag about that next?
Anthony Daniels didn’t originally want to play C-3PO.
When the two first met in 1975 and George Lucas proposed playing the character of C-3PO, Daniels didn’t want to do it. He said that he was uninterested in portraying a robot on-screen.
However, he changed his mind when he saw Ralph McQuarrie’s conceptual painting for the character, saying that he thought the robot was beautiful.
Daniels reprised his role for The Force Awakens when J.J. Abrams asked him to come back. Initially, Abrams only asked Daniels if he wanted to do the voice, due to his age, but Daniels was more than happy to get back in costume again.
The entire C-3PO costume was rebuilt from the bottom up to be easier for Daniels to get in and out of, without any changes being visible on-screen.
Daniels also provided the voice for C-3PO in the animated series Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003), Droids, The Clone Wars, and Rebels.
Vader remembers C-3PO in Empire Strikes Back.
Just like Artoo and Obi Wan in A New Hope, Vader and Threepio come into contact with no on-screen recognition of each other during Empire Strikes Back.
Of course, Threepio’s memory was wiped at the end of Revenge of the Sith, so naturally he wouldn’t remember or know who Darth Vader is.
However, this isn’t the case with Vader.
In the short story Thank The Maker from the comic Star Wars Tales: Issue 6, an Imperial officer brings Vader the remnants of Threepio.
He hands Vader Threepio’s head and as the Sith Lord stands looking over it, the comic flashes back in time and we see young Anakin on Tatooine, finding Threepio’s head in Watto’s junkyard.
As the comic goes on he finds the rest of Threepio and takes him home, pleading with his mum to keep him and repair him so he can help around the house.
Young Anakin identifies with C-3PO, a broken and dejected piece of property. A slave.
His mother relents, and tells him he can keep the droid, saying:
“Just remember, the droid is your responsibility, and unless you’re prepared to care for something, you don’t deserve to have it.”
The comic cuts to present time, and Vader is staring into the cold, deactivated optical sensors of his old childhood friend.
He lifts the droid’s head to his face, and leans in, touching his helmet to it in a tender moment of shocking humanization for both the dark lord and the protocol droid.
The Imperial officers ask Vader if he wants to destroy the droid, and he tells them to return it “to the Wookie’s cell”. Puzzled, they ask Vader why.
He replies “I am giving the Wookie what he deserves.”
The line, coming from Vader, shows he still cares for Threepio and he wants him to be with Chewie, who he knows will care for him.
C-3PO’s red arm was a tribute to a droid friend who sacrificed himself.
When Threepio made his first appearance in the Sequel-era butting into Leia and Han’s reunion during The Force Awakens, he delivered one of his best lines ever. “Goodness! Han Solo! It is I: C-3PO. You probably don’t recognize me because of the red arm!”
Besides being brilliantly meme-able, and hilarious, this skit with Threepio’s red arm is actually very deep, emotional, and touching all at once.
In the comic Star Wars Special: C-3PO 1: The Phantom Limb, set at some point not long before The Force Awakens, C-3PO was part of a mission to rescue Admiral Ackbar from First Order captivity.
After capturing a protocol droid called Omri who had the location of the captive Admiral, the ship they were on crashed, killing everyone on-board – except 3PO, Omri and four other droids.
The surviving droids make their way to a transmitter to call for help, but one by one they perish at the hands of the planet’s wildlife and terrain.
Along the way Omri questions the philosophical ethics of droid usage, likening them to slaves and remarking on how trivial life is when one’s memory can wiped at a master’s whim.
Omri goes on to state that sometimes he sees glimpses of past events that he hasn’t experienced. This leads him to believe he has had several memory wipes and wonders how important his past lives may have been.
In a hauntingly beautiful Tears in Rain-esque monologue, C-3PO admits that he too has memories of a past life, saying:
“I see flashes – for just a moment… places. Rocks… a factory of droids… an arena, in the middle of a battle… my body not my own… a green world with hills, underwater cities… a single city spread far as my optical sensors could see… a temple on fire… smoky mountains of magma and fire. Suffering. Yes… I have memories too. And yes, sometimes I allow myself to wonder about them…”
Not long after this, Threepio loses his arm to some creatures, and only Threepio and Omri are left. As the two finally reach the transmitter, it starts acid raining.
The two take cover but quickly realize that the transmitter will be eaten away by the acid rain, so they have to act quickly if they want to send a signal out.
Omri tells C-3PO that there is nothing in his directive to stop Threepio from completing his mission and transfers Ackbar’s location to him.
He tells Threepio he isn’t changing sides, but rather he is choosing friendship.
In a selfless act of a sacrifice, Omri walks into the acid rain to send out a signal before the transmitter is destroyed. As the acid rain eats away at him, it reveals a red coat of paint underneath his current blue paint, belaying a past life.
Omri is able to send a signal to Poe Dameron, ensuring C-3PO’s survival, but perishes doing so. All that remains of him is a red arm, which Threepio takes when Poe rescues him and it’s the same arm you see him with in The Force Awakens.
So those are my 10 favorite in-universe and out-of-universe facts about one of Sci-Fi’s undoubtedly most iconic duos.
I hope you all enjoyed these facts and stories about everyone’s favorite pair of droids – from a galaxy far, far away…