Sunday, 30 March 2008

Master Replicas : ROTS Darth Vader Helmet


The development of Vader's look came about when Ralph McQuarrie sketched a bizarre gargoyle-like mask. At that stage of story development, McQuarrie had no idea that Vader's suit had an elaborate backstory involving betrayal and injury. He had crafted the mask simply because he thought Vader would need a means of breathing when he crossed over from his Star Destroyer to the captured Rebel blockade runner at the start of A New Hope.

For Episode III, the Costume Department was tasked with recreating the Vader armor to fit Hayden Christensen for his transformation into the iconic Dark Lord. Using modern machining techniques, Costume Props Supervisor Ivo Coveney was able to create, for the first time, a perfectly symmetrical Vader helmet. Christensen wore a padded muscle suit to fill out his frame to the proportions required by the armor. For the interior of the mask, seen in a dramatic shot as the helmet lowers on Vader's face for the first time, the ILM modelmaker Don Bies crafted the details within.


Darth Vader's grim black attire was a life-support system, his labored mechanical breathing the sound of a walking iron lung. Critically injured in a lightsaber battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar, Vader became "more machine than man," kept alive only by the devices built into his suit. Kenobi's lightsaber sheared off his lower legs and his left arm, while exposure to the fire and radiation of Mustafar's searing surface burned his flesh and ravaged his body throughout. A team of droids rebuilt Vader in an Imperial rehabilitation center on Coruscant, adding cybernetic components to his body and encasing him in black armor. The fearsome visage of his breath mask reflects the dark identity that he assumed after his fall from the light side of the force.

Vader could only remove his mask in a special hyperbaric chamber, such as the one on board his
Star Destroyer Executor. Allowing no one to assist him, Vader relied on mechanical devices to remove and replace his helmet and metal breath screen.

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