Original Darth Vader Helmets (Screen-Used)


A New Hope

So who actually "made" Darth Vader?
Well it was mainly a collaboration of conceptual artist, Ralph McQuarrie, Costume Designer John Mollo, Production Designer Norman Reynolds and Brian Muir who actually sculpted the infamous character.

For more information Click Here for the John Mollo Interview which deals with the overall design and Click Here for the Brian Muir Interviews to understand a little more about the sculpting process.

Darth Vader on the Tantive IV

Original Publicity Photo (1977)

Original Darth Vader Costume from Lucas archives

Unusual publicity photo (1977/78), note dome skewed/unaligned. Taken from UK Poster Mag #4

Below, some great ANH Hi Def grabs from RoCKo, the second showing Darth Vader's dome very much off-kilter in his TIE fighter!

Look at the detail -don't ya just love Hi-Def!

Above, another photo from the UK SW Poster Mag (1978). This time the fold-out poster from #3 of Vader and Stormtroopers taken from the same publicity junket as the shot above right.

Above three screen grabs from aboard the Tantive IV of Darth Vader looking his meanest (and best) and below a crop from a new Hi-Def screengrab at full resolution - see the difference!

Above is a nicely detailed shot from the SW Chronicles clearly showing the two tone tusks

Here's a couple of nice screen grabs from Anson from the Making of Star Wars in 1977. The one on the right is especially interesting as you can see three bumps on the top of the head which look VERY similar to the marking found on the top of the ESB 20th Century helmet (see here)

These four images above and below were taken in May 2003 at Disney MGM Studio's (in the AFI 100 Exhibition) of what is purported to be one of the "Original" ANH Vader's. Note that it's under glass so therefore there's some distortion and reflection but I tried to get the best shots I could.

The profile looks very good although the dome doesn't look like its sitting correctly on the face.

Below a couple of shots of ILM's Joe Johnson's Vader which was made for a Halloween party. Its based on the original Ralph McQuarrie prototype design  but what is not clear is whether it was made before or after Star Wars.

It was apparently trashed at the party (sounds like my kind of party) so it really was a one-off. I recently asked John Mollo whether he had seen this before the screen-used costumes were made and he said that he hadn't, suggesting it was in fact made after 1977, or it had never left California. Below another shot, this time with what looks like some Death Star surface behind it - again suggesting it was something the guys in the US worked on.

Below, this is a photo newly released of the original Vader costume. The photo dates back to 1977 and as you can see it looks fantastic. IN these publicity shots its a gentleman called Kermit Eller wearing the suit. Thanks to Bill Malone and Golgotha

Below, here's a good shot from one of the VH1 shows (and previously I think from the original "Making of Star Wars" first screened on TV in 1977), showing a dome-less Vader. The 3 Apple latches are just out of shot at the top, but the paint scheme is very clear. Note that a decision was taken mid-February 1976 to make Vader this two-tone design. Originally it was thought that this was a last-minute idea but recent info points to this being something decided long before filming.

...and finally as we segue into ESB, here's one of the photos that I think was used as part of the pre-release "Vader in front of Stars" one-sheet for ESB.


The Empire Strikes Back

The story continues...following the success of the first film, Lucas realised he had a problem as all the original Vader helmets had gone (of the ones that made it back to the U.S.,  were either "picked-up" by collectors and in the case of one used for PR, were unusable due to damage). Therefore LFL prop-makers working from an original cast (the moulds had long gone) recast an existing helmet or possibly a Tour helmet?. Its for this reason that the ANH looks significantly different from the ESB/ROTJ which has a softer more polished appearance with less pronounced cheeks, more rounded eyes and softer edges around the mouth. An obvious difference is the missing "widows peak" on the ESB/ROJ.

Whether this is true or not is anyone's guess, and given the number of similarities between the 20thC ESB and the ANH Vader (see "Compare" section) it may well not and in fact the ESB is merely a tweaked version of the helmet from the same mould (or a tweaked recast), WHO KNOWS!!!

Above and below, various scenes from the movie (ESB). Note point on front of dome, above frown, has now gone.

Above and below a couple of shots from May 2003 from the Planet Hollywood Store at Downtown Disney in Orlando Florida of a supposed original ESB Vader. Overall condition was fairly good despite the broken tusks. It looks pretty clear to me that the 20th Century Vader Helmet (see Fans/Vader) has come directly from this.


Above and below from a very interesting recent auction of an original ESB Stunt helmet. Used specifically for the Vader/Luke fight scenes you can see that the cheeks are transparent and the lower grill has been removed to allow the wearer an improved field of vision. In addition the tusks appear to have been removed (don't know why unless is was to avoid the possibility of Mark Hamil being caught by them as they are VERY close on a couple of occasions). Note that this helmet (as with all "Stunts") would have been used for long-shots, being replaced by one of the Hero helmets for the close-up shots.

The text from the auction is as follows: Lot 72 - Original Darth Vader fighting helmet from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. (TCF, 1980) This Darth Vader helmet was used extensively throughout the climactic fight sequences in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. It is a highly modified version of the "hero" helmet used during standard shooting, and was specially created so that Olympic fencing champion Bob Anderson had much clearer vision when he was performing the fight sequences with Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker).

The two-piece helmet is constructed almost entirely of highly-polished black Perspex, a proprietary acrylic used by the film industry's top special effects modellers. The helmet is joined to the mask at the crown. The mask is padded with foam, and secured to the wearer's head with a three-point head strap. Inside, the "grotesque breath screen" (as it was described in Vader's 1978 character biography) is held in place with plastic filler, as are the eye lenses, which are lightly tinted but appear black from the outside.

The modifications to this helmet, as distinct from the "hero" helmet, include special tinted brown lenses which were fitted into the cheek areas and around the neck, replacing the solid resin/fiberglass areas in the standard helmet. This made it possible for Mr. Anderson to see his opponent's blade around and below him, which would have not been possible with the restricted vision that the standard eye lenses normally provided. Bob Anderson took over the role of Darth Vader for the complex fight sequences, his amazing fencing skills making it possible to take the Darth Vader character to a new level of menace with all the reactions and skill of a true sword's master (ed. who writes this stuff!!).

Special thanks to producer Gary Kurtz and Jason Joiner of the Kurtz/Joiner Star Wars Archive for their assistance in identifying this particular helmet, and also in providing these splendid reference images of the piece as used in the production. Estimate $40,000 - $60,000. This helmet was originally sold in the December 17, 1992 auction of Film and Entertainment Memorabilia by Christie's South Kensington, lot 577. 

Below some shots from Mike of the same Bob Anderson Fencing helmet in it new home (part of the Paul Allen collection)....

As you can see the lower grill was been completely removed to help Bob

You can see the Perspex cheek areas quite clearly, however in lower light (and on-screen) they're very hard to pick out (cue lots of slo mo on your DVD's). Thanks again to Mike for sending these pics - Mike's currently working on a project to replicate this specific fencing helmet - more pics in the Fans/Vader/ESB section

Below, excellent b/w (Front Of House) publicity shot of Vader on Cloud City from ESB.

Below, many thanks for regular contributor and Vader-expert Thomas for these nice shots of the reconditioned ESB Vader auctioned by Profiles in History on ebay. Originally created for and used in the production of The Empire Strikes Back, the stunning costume pieces offered here were repainted in June, 1992 by Lucasfilm resident archivist Don Bies, who then personally reassembled and mounted the pieces in an oversize, museum-quality Plexiglas display case, custom fabricated under his direct supervision. The finished piece was then sold at an Artist's Rights Foundation auction held at the Directors Guild of America (Hollywood, CA) in October, 1992.

Accompanying the helmet, mask and shoulder armor are a number of important pieces of provenance, directly tying these magnificent costume pieces to Lucasfilm. Crowning the archive is a signed Letter of Authenticity from George Lucas himself, on Lucasfilm Ltd. stationery, dated July 29, 1992: "This letter is to confirm that I have personally examined the 'Darth Vader Mask and Helmet' and that it is an original, authentic piece of costume created by Lucasfilm Ltd in 1980 which was used in the film entitled 'The Empire Strikes Back'. Sincerely, George Lucas (signed), Executive Producer"

The whole dome/face and shoulder structure was bolted together and an ample application of glue has ensured that it will never be taken apart (and recast). 

Despite its complete renovation it still went for an impressive $70,000 in December 2003.

Above-another excellent Hi Def screengrab, thanks to the anonymous source for these.

Above and below a couple of shots from Patrick H when the "Star Wars In Concert" show toured Tulsa. Though this is an "official LFL" Vader statue, the provenance of the individual items is unclear suggesting they're "production made" rather than screen-used.


Return of the Jedi

First up another of those Hi-Def screengrabs, this time the RotJ variant Vader

Heres a photo from TK7602, taken at one of the  LFL exhibitions of the RotJ Vader (although the dome's set slightly wonky), showing the wider chin vent of this particular helmet.


Front Cover DK's SW Guide, probably ROJ. If you look close you may notice to chip to the right of where the Widows peak should be. Note that this may be ESB as the bottom lip looks thin.

On-set Photo in DS2 Hangar. The bottom lip of the ROJ is thicker on the ROJ over the ESB

Film Scene

"Reveal" Face mask

Above and below, some great shots sent to me by Anson of the (I presume ROJ) Vader, shown last year in the UK, and another shot of the ROJ reveal face. 

Below, two shots from the LFL Archive of the Dark Lord.

The one above looks RotJ but not sure if the one below isn't ESB.

Below four cool shots from Franz Bolo from the Houston MOM exhibition.
 First up a complete RotJ Vader

Then a great photo of the Reveal face

...and again from a lower angle...

...and finally a close-up of the lower jaw and neck brace


Original Trilogy Promotion and Tour Suits



We added a separate section that deals the Darth Vader Helmets and Costumes used in Promotions and Tours - Including a detailed review of a very special costume
- Click Here.



Revenge of the Sith

Lucasfilm has been releasing some of the photos of the new Vader costume, including the now symmetrical helmet. Thanks to Vader71 for sending me these.

And below a photo of the actual Helmet prop itself, in all its symmetrical glory!

Finally a couple from a source who would prefer to remain anonymous. Thanks for the pics!

Here are more great shots from TK7602, taken at one of the recent LFL exhibitions.

Above and below, looking a bit dusty (the flash picking this up more than the naked eye at the time would have seen). The clear symmetry of the cheeks apparent in the way both cheeks sweep up and down like a wave (whereas on the OT helmets only Vader's left does this). Despite these differences the helmet connectors and detailing are otherwise quite similar to the reveal seen in Jedi

and a superb final shot of Vader's mask showing all the intricate internal detailing seen in Sith

Thanks again 7602 for sharing your photos!

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