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Anthony Daniels explains to PEOPLE how modern technology has improved the C-3PO suit for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

By Chris Tauber
Updated December 11, 2015 05:15 PM
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Credit: Jules Heath/LUCASFILM LTD.

The original man behind C-3PO is reprising his role for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and lucky for him, the method of getting into that golden droid suit has been much improved since 1976.

Anthony Daniels’ first day on the set of the first Star Wars film was brutal. When he strapped on the recently completed plastic costume in the desert heat of Tunisia, it took only two steps before the left leg piece shattered and sliced into his foot.

But nearly four decades later, Daniels, now 69, says he’s still the only man for the job. “It is only I who wears the suit,” he says in PEOPLE’s new Star Wars special issue. “Nobody else is crazy enough.”

Fortunately, new technology – and a bigger budget – have made the process of getting into the costume much easier. “With modern technology they were willing to 3D-print the suit,” Daniels says. “It’s a wonderful process. I got this wonderfully clever, skilled, thoughtful, kind crew who came up with some little ideas just to make it work better. I’m hugely grateful for that, hugely grateful.”

See exclusive photos, get a first look at new characters and learn more secrets from the cast and crew of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in PEOPLE’s Star Wars collector’s edition, on newsstands now. And for more exclusive Star Wars news, come back to PEOPLE.com every day until it hits theaters Dec. 18

While it’s hard to imagine C-3PO without his iconic English accent, Daniels was originally cast solely to operate the suit, and another voice actor was supposed to dub in the lines.

“It was mentioned a number of times that C-3PO may sound like a used-car salesman, not the English butler type,” Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt said in the Empire of Dreams making-of documentary. But during rehearsals, Daniels’ line reading made for “an excellent performance. It was a total character that he created. So his track was left in the movie.”

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For The Force Awakens, director J.J. Abrams offered to flip the original setup and have another actor behind the suit while Daniels dubbed the voice. Daniels wasn’t having it: “He said, ‘Would you consider just doing the voice?’ I said, ‘Nope.’ He said ‘Right.’ And we carried on from there.”

After all these years, Daniels has formed an inseparable bond with his character. “The longer that my career as C-3PO goes on, the more I marvel at some greater force taking over,” he says. But that doesn’t mean he can’t have some lightsaber envy. “I’d still rather be playing Luke Skywalker,” he says. “He has clothes he can sit down in.”