TO HELMET AND BACK
Meet the man who sculpted an icon
Of all the big screen’s intimidating adversaries, none have left such an indelible mark as Star Wars’ prime antagonist darth Vader. Brian Muir, who sculpted the original mask way back in 1976, certainly didn’t realise the magnitude of the iconic character he was crafting.
“I’m immensely proud to have been part of Vader’s creation but it was impossible to imagine how iconic Vader would become – most of us didn’t know what george Lucas was trying to achieve,” he admits.
Although he worked from a three quarter-view sketch drawn by costume designer John Mollo, Muir had some significant design influence himself. “To prevent a less robotic appearance, I put a slight asymmetrical difference in Vader’s cheeks, which became slightly exaggerated during the moulding and casting process,” he reveals. “The menacing appearance continued to evolve by adding tear ducts and extended tubes. I then applied clay to the plaster mask and sculpted the subtle shape of the helmet, carving a strip that formed a widow’s peak. It really drew attention to those piercing eyes, and gave Vader that intimidating stare.”
Muir also worked on Vader’s imposing body armour. “I had a mould of actor david Prowse’s body to work from and used Ralph McQuarrie’s detailed paintings as reference, while production designer John Barry had final say on any design improvements. The chest piece was the most prominent part of the armour. The fluid lines and subtle design, together with shoulder caps and the addition of a cape, helped to enhance Vader’s powerful appearance.”
So what’s Muir’s theory behind why Vader’s look has generated such a power that resonates all the way to that chilling glimpse in The Force Awakens trailer? “It has so many powerful, menacing aspects. But I feel it’s the staring eyes accentuated by the line of the helmet that is particularly unnerving. It generates a primeval fear that has prevailed and is timeless.” Oliver Pfeiffer
Well, Luke’s still looking youthful here.
Ralph McQuarrie concept art featuring Vader in combat.