Armor and Helmets
|OK, for the Star Wars movies there
were a number of different kinds of Stormtrooper helmets used - ditto armor. For example for the first film (ANH/A
there were TWO main Stormtrooper helmet types - which not only looked different, they were also
made of different materials. For The Empire Strikes Back they
just reused the "old" ANH helmets - after giving them a slight
"makeover". For Return of the
Jedi they needed a lot more Stormtrooper helmets than they had left over so they made a whole bunch of new ones,
which were cast off one of the old ANH helmet.
Does this make sense? Read
on and we'll try and explain.........
Where it all began....
Star Wars featured some of the most
iconic costume designs ever seen in film, none more so than the Imperial
Stormtrooper. The design work for these characters can be traced back to
Ralph McQuarrie's early drawings and paintings produced in 1975 as part of
George Lucas' wish to help visualise the movie for Fox company execs..
|At this point in the stories
evolution, Lightsabers were de rigour for all combatants and not just
Sith and Jedi. However as you can see the basic design of the Stormtrooper character is
pretty well defined. Moving on a year or so to February 1976 as
pre-production started in London, an original clay sculpt was produced of
the Stormtrooper helmet and armour. As you can see at this stage in the design process
the sculptor was by now very close to nailing the finished screen look. -
especially when you look at the curves around the frown and nose sections.
|As you can see the ears are
"missing", with this presumably a late design change where the ears were
added to hide the join between the face and back section. This wouldn't have
been necessary if the helmet was a single piece design (such as Vader and
thus made from fiberglass). However it appears that fairly late in its
development, and with ever-tightening timescales looming they decided to opt
for vacuum forming of thermo plastics.
In order to accommodate this the Stormtrooper helmet had to be split into two main
sections, the face plate and the back/cap section - which were then bolted
together. This created an unsightly gap/overlap between the two separate
section and thus the "ears" were introduced to bridge them. Looking at this
original clay sculpt, the way the eyes meet also looks a little different,
so again its variance with the finished look could well have been dictated
by the change in production method and materials.
The sculpting of the Stormtrooper helmet was done by Liz Moore (who also sculpted C-3PO)
with the body armour sculpted by Brian Muir at Elstree Studio's. The bucks
from these sculpts were then given to Andrew
Ainsworth at Shepperton Design Studios in Twickenham, London who fabricated
both the helmets and armour. SDS
became a key manufacturer of costuming parts for the film, providing helmets
and other hard-parts for the Stormtrooper, TIE Pilot, Death
Gunner, Imperial Guard, Rebel X/Y-Wing pilots, Rebel Fleet Trooper and
Rebel Ground Crew/Guards.
The decision to use Ainsworth/SDS may look a little strange
today, given they'd had no previous experience with TV or Movies. However
when you consider the massive costuming project that was in place it is a
little more understandable that the Production Design team were looking for
people who could solve problems. Recent court reports suggest that John
Mollo contacted Nick Pemberton (who DID have experience in prop-making in
the entertainment industry), and Pemberton knew well of Ainsworth's
abilities in vac-forming plastics, since his business was literally just a
few doors down the road from his own.
Here a shot of some partially completed helmets and armor
outside Shepperton Design Studio's near London in March 1976. As you can see
the Khaki HDPE helmets have all been spray-painted white - and many have the ears and brow
trims attached. If you look closely the "mic tips" look more bulbous and
less defined than the screen-used ones suggesting that they were replaced by
the Elstree Art department at the Studio. Behind them you can see some vac-formed
sheets of armor, ready to go to the Studio where John Mollo's team assembled
|SDS was a well-established producer
of vac-formed plastics for the leisure market, with a range of products
including canoes, paddles, sports helmets etc. and was
contacted by Nick Pemberton in Jan/Feb 1976 and asked whether he could help “with
a new Sci-Fi movie project” . Court papers suggest that Pemberton acted as liaison
between the Star Wars Costume Design team (led by
John Mollo) and Ainsworth/SDS. Records also suggest that Pemberton also worked on a number of characters
for the movie including the Tusken
Raider, Jawa's and some of the original Cantina Aliens - although for the
latter its not known whether they were screen-used or not.
SDS's original receipts dating back to 1976 show that in total they
Stormtrooper helmets, twelve Imperial Forces' (Gunner) helmets, twelve Imperial
(TIE) Fighter Pilots' helmets and twenty X-Wing Fighter Pilots' helmets -
along with the Imperial Guards and of course the Stormtrooper and TIE Armour.
Stormtrooper Helmets - Hero's and Stunts?
|The original contract was for the
production of 50 Stormtrooper helmets.
However, as soon as SDS began o produce them they he realised that the
complex shape of their design (such as the male and female curves on the
rear) necessitated the use of a less than ideal kind of plastic, High
Density Poly Ethylene. HDPE is a rubbery, flexible material now used to make things
like milk cartons, which was better suited than ABS to handle the complex
curves and undercuts. So the khaki-green HDPE helmets then had to be spray
painted white after manufacture.
However, because painted helmets don't look all that great under close
scrutiny, Lucasfilm/Mollo requested that Ainsworth also produce six "close
up" helmets when Stormtrooper were to be featured more prominently -
such as when Luke and Han are disguised as Stormtroopers, although they can
also be seen in numerous other shots as well. We refer to these six as the
"Hero" Stormtrooper helmets as they were made to a higher specification.
Instead they were vac-formed in a shiny white ABS plastic, with higher quality
detailing including curved eye lenses. Hence in the screen-shot above the
Hero is on the Left, with the Stunt on the
Right. Note that the armor is the same, only the helmets varied.
Three years later for The Empire Strikes Back, John Mollo and his team simply
re-used the same Stormtrooper costumes and helmets that had previously been
used in A New Hope. This was the simplest solution since only 12-14
were required - and it also saved them money on what was a strict budget
since they only really needed a quick tidying up.
For Return of the Jedi over 50 were needed so new armor and helmets were
produced - cast from an original ANH set. You can read more about these
different versions in
the following sections below.....
now you've read about the background. just click on the different helmets below to open a whole new world
of Stormtrooper info.....
Star Wars - A New Hope
The Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi
The Force Awakens (2015)
ANH STUNT Stormtroopers
ANH HERO Stormtroopers
RotJ (+SE) Stormtroopers
|In addition you can
click on this link for
side-by-side comparisons of the different Stormtrooper helmets
Back to all the Original Helmets here