TO HEL­MET AND BACK

Meet the man who sculpted an icon

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Star Wars The Force Awakens -

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.

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