The obscene C-3PO trading card from A New Hope has been a mystery for over 40 years now. Lucasfilm employees have tried to explain what happened. Now Anthony Daniels has just revealed the real reason behind the popular card. To cash in on the popularity of the franchise, Topps created a set of trading cards for the movie in the late 1970s. It gave fans a wealth of knowledge that they had been missing, including how to properly spell character names and find out who the actors were.
However, card 207 of the original Star Wars set is very popular for another reason. One doesn't have to look very hard to see that C-3PO has an extra appendage, which appears to be male genitalia. The droid is coming out of his oil bath and the picture has everything on full display. According to the official Star Wars website, it was just a mistake that made it into the final image because of perfect (or imperfect) timing. They had this to say.
"(It) appears that the extra appendage is not the work of an artist, but rather a trick of timing and light. The untouched archive photo shows the image just as it appears on the card. The current theory is that the instant the photo was snapped, a piece fell off the Threepio costume, and just happened to line up in such a way as to suggest a bawdy image. The original contact sheets from the photo shoot attest to this. They are not retouched in any way, yet still contain the same image. Whatever the real explanation is, the 'mischievous airbrush artist' scenario simply doesn't fit."
Many fans were under the impression that the work was done by an airbrush artist, but as Lucasfilm attests, it was not. While the Star Wars site stands by their answer, Anthony Daniels provides the truth, along with some background information from the scene. Daniels says they had him in actual vegetable oil, which the crew heated up for him. This led to the problem occurring. He explains.
"It really was oil. I stood on a platform that gently lowered me into the green liquid. The crew had been kind enough to warm it. Not as much as was indicated by the steam. That was achieved with two electric kettles hidden behind me. The oil permeated the inner spaces between me and the costume legs as I chatted with my new master, Luke Skywalker [Mark Hamill]. I eventually rose again, dripping but without incident. Or so I thought."
He goes onto explain how the image actually happened.
"At that time, the pants section of the costume was in two pieces of thin plastic. Front and back. A strip of gold-colored tape fixed them together, (which was) fine. But being immersed in vegetable oil dissolved the adhesive and the two parts sprung apart. At the same time, Threepio's left leg dropped down over the shoe. The combination led to an over-exposure of plastic in that region. It left a bulging crease."
So there we have it. The vegetable oil was the main culprit, which gave C-3PO the extra appendage. All of the conspiracy theories can be laid to rest. As for how the image made it into the Topps Star Wars cards to begin with, many believe that the company was overwhelmed with the production after combing through hundreds of images. However, the infamous C-3PO card was discovered by parents who were outraged.
Topps had to take the card and do some creative airbrushing to fix it, while taking the original 207 card out of circulation. Despite the card being taken out of circulation, it is actually quite easy to find these days, costing anywhere from $30 to $100, depending on the condition. "If you see one signed on the surface by me, it is a forgery," says Anthony Daniels, who refused to ever sign the X-rated card. The actor still thinks that a mischievous Topps employee may have altered the photo with the crease, helping to accentuated this phalic imagery so that it appeared larger, along with some additional anatomical flourishes. He claims Lucasfilm varified this account. Anthony Daniels went onto say this about his history with the card.
"I would never autograph it. Call me humorless, but, clever though the artwork was, I find it an insult to a good friend of mine who cannot speak for himself on this planet. As a protocol droid and skilled in the niceties of etiquette, Threepio would never, ever appear as excited as that in public. And that is a fact."
The interview with Daniels was originally conducted by Mental Floss.