The Secret Behind Darth Vader's Mask

November 24, 2009

Everyone who knows anything about Star Wars knows why Darth Vader wears a big, scary mask. Dude messed with one too many Jedis and had his butt handed to him -- literally -- by Obi-Wan. But now Ralph McQuarrie, the designer behind the look of the original films, talks about the real reason Darth needed a helmet of doom.

Still kicking at 80 years old, McQuarrie talked with SciFi Wire about his conversations with George Lucas back when he was the conceptual designer for Star Wars:

He was described in the script as leaping aboard the starship through a hole in the hull, wearing flowing black robes. The first thing I thought was, "Shouldn't he have some sort of breathing apparatus if he's entering the vacuum of space?" I asked George and he said, "Fine, give him a breath mask." ...It was then decided to give him a samurai helmet, and as I continued to work on the concept it evolved into a close approximation of what you see on screen.

It's kind of mind-blowing to find out that the villain who represents for so many people the most perfect embodiment of evil and badassness required a helmet simply to have a "breath mask" (whatever the hell that is) so that he could do occassional space walks when entering and exiting his various ships.

Furthermore, this leads us to ask: what happened to those space walks?! I don't know about you, but I can't remember any point in parts IV through VI when Vader floats between ships. So they kept the mask, but dropped the floating through space?

Then again, it's really cool -- if entirely pedestrian -- to finally find out why exactly Darth Vader's suit was designed with a helmet and body buttons. The man was too cool to be confined to his ship.

Now if only we could find out the reason as to why Princess Leia has an English accent in the beginning of part IV, but speaks with an American accent for the rest of the trilogy. Guess the answer to that one's a little more obvious.

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