THE EM­PIRE STRIKES A POSE

The sketch­books of stel­lar cos­tume de­signer John Mollo are up for auc­tion. Philip Wil­son seizes the op­por­tu­nity to view the ini­tial draw­ings of Darth Vader’s iconic look

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Power To Amaze -

HOW DO YOU cre­ate the look for one of the most cel­e­brated vil­lains in film his­tory? Ac­cord­ing to the cos­tume de­signer John Mollo, it can some­times be a mat­ter of as­sem­bling wildly dif­fer­ent el­e­ments from stock cloth­ing in a cos­tu­mier’s. ‘For Darth Vader, I had to go to three de­part­ments: the ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal depart­ment for a robe, the mod­ern depart­ment for a mo­tor­cy­cle suit and the mil­i­tary depart­ment for a [Sec­ond World War] Ger­man hel­met and gas mask. We cob­bled it all to­gether and there was Darth Vader.’

Mollo’s char­ac­ter­is­tic non­cha­lance about re­al­is­ing his de­signs – for the film he ini­tially de­scribed as ‘a sort of space western’ – be­lies the amount of work that goes into vi­su­al­is­ing an en­tire world from the imag­i­na­tion, long be­fore the ac­tual cos­tume fit­tings. His name may not be as fa­mil­iar as that of Ge­orge Lu­cas, Richard At­ten­bor­ough or

Stan­ley Kubrick, but his con­tri­bu­tion to films such as Star Wars, Gandhi and Barry Lyn­don was fun­da­men­tal. Now, the per­sonal sketch­books of this dou­ble-os­car win­ner, con­tain­ing cos­tume de­signs for these films and oth­ers, are up for sale at Bon­hams in Lon­don.

One, with an es­ti­mate of £80,000-£120,000, in­cludes hand-drawn de­tails of the me­chan­ics of Darth Vader’s hel­met, plus sketches of Chew­bacca’s hir­sute look, Princess Leia’s full-length white gown, and the stormtroop­ers’ ar­mour. Ini­tial doo­dles and fin­ished de­signs sit along­side scrib­bled meet­ing notes, phone num­bers, bud­gets, sched­ules – even the odd shop­ping list.

Tom Mollo, the de­signer’s son, re­mem­bers his fa­ther as be­ing ‘a man of bound­less imag­i­na­tion, but he never for­got the prac­ti­cal side of cos­tume de­sign – that ac­tors had to be able to move and breathe and speak their lines as well.’

One such ac­tor, Sir Alec Guin­ness, was an early fan of Mollo’s work. The de­signer was called upon by Lu­cas to help to con­vince the ini­tially re­luc­tant Guin­ness to play the part of the Jedi mas­ter Obi­wan Kenobi, af­ter cre­at­ing a se­ries of sketches of a monas­tic brown cloak and cowl. ‘Ge­orge wanted us to go and see Sir Alec with the draw­ings, which Guin­ness liked very much,’ he re­called. ‘I got the feel­ing that it was the cos­tume that re­ally sold him.’

An­other sketch­book con­tains draw­ings for The Em­pire Strikes Back, Ri­d­ley Scott’s Alien and Dou­glas Hickox’s Zulu Dawn. Also on sale are Mollo’s Rotring-and-wa­ter­colour cos­tume draw­ings for Gandhi (1982) and The Three Mus­ke­teers (1993), as well as Napoleonic uni­forms for Kubrick’s biopic Napoleon, which was never filmed.

Tom Mollo re­calls, ‘My fa­ther once said with typ­i­cal un­der­state­ment, “I think on the whole I did a good job.” His­tory has surely proved him right.’ Now you can see for your­self, with­out need­ing to travel to a gal­axy far, far away. De­sign­ing an Em­pire: The John Mollo Archive will be auc­tioned at Bon­hams, New Bond Street, Lon­don W1, at 4pm on 11 De­cem­ber (sale pre­views on 8 and 9 De­cem­ber, 11am-3pm; 10 De­cem­ber, 9am-4.30pm; 11 De­cem­ber, 9-10am); bon­hams.com

Ini­tially, Sir Alec Guin­ness was re­luc­tant to play Obi-wan Kenobi. ‘I got the feel­ing it was the cos­tume that re­ally sold him’

Clock­wise from top left Among the lots at Bon­hams is John Mollo’s sketch­book for Star Wars (1977), in­clud­ing cos­tumes for Princess Leia, Darth Vader and Obi-wan Kenobi (played by Sir Alec Guin­ness, bot­tom right); es­ti­mate £80,000-£120,000. In 1978 Mollo won the best cos­tume de­sign Os­car for his work on the film, pre­sented by Natalie Wood

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