Don Bies Talks Vader Mask/Helmet

Discussion in 'Star Wars Costumes and Props' started by Probe Droid, Mar 16, 2006.

  1. Probe Droid

    Probe Droid Master Member

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    I thought this was interesting. One part will make you cringe (you'll know when you read it).



    One of the most haunting images of Revenge of the Sith is the fearsome black mask that lowers over Anakin Skywalker's ravaged face, forever sealing him in an implacable armored shell, marking a seemingly irreversible transformation into Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith.
    Though the Sydney-based Costume Props Department developed a full suit of armor for Hayden Christensen, the shot of the helmet lowering was achieved separately in postproduction by Industrial Light & Magic. The ILM Model Shop was tasked with building the separated helmet, and Practical Model Supervisor Brian Gernand assigned the task to Don Bies, for good reason.

    "He knew of my affinity for movie history and Star Wars lore," says Bies. Years ago, Bies worked as the archivist for the Lucasfilm Archives, the repository of the props, costumes and models used in various Lucasfilm productions. In that role, Bies had actually rescued the original Vader helmet used in for the unmasking in Return of the Jedi.

    "The original prop I found at the bottom of a crate with a bunch of junk on top of it -- shredded papers and stuff like that," recalls Bies. "The crate almost got tossed, but I decided to check it and pulled out this brown flannel bag, and inside were the pieces of the mask."

    The mask became one of Bies' favorites pieces in the Archive, and he studied it extensively, unknowingly preparing himself years in advance for the assignment of recreating it for Revenge of the Sith. The original mask, on a museum tour in Japan at the time of Episode III production, did not have much inner detail, allowing considerable artistic freedom in designing the inside of the mask.

    "Ryan Church had created a design that was very manufactured and more medical," says Bies. "I started making suggestions as to how to build it. His direction was that it's supposed to look painful; it goes easy but it doesn't come off easy. Having that freedom allowed me to start playing around with different materials. I used the readers from computer hard drives in there -- it made it look like if you slipped this thing on your face that it would cut into your cheeks."

    Bies worked off of extensive photographs of the original prop, discovering that many of the "found" objects used to dress the original could not be found locally. "A lot of must have been from England surplus stores. I ended up having to laser cut almost all of it," says Bies.

    Some of the material he did find included electronic molex connectors, stainless steel studs from punk rocker collars, and parts from a Tamiya tank model kit. The two silver knobs bracketing Vader's mouthpiece, nicknamed the "tusks," came from a surprising source. "We were running short on time, so I actually bought them from a fan."

    Joining Bies on the project were John Duncan, who built the "harmonica" mouthpiece and Carol Bauman who helped paint the helmet. The helmet deviated from the original in that it used the Episode III mold which had a symmetrical face, and the new incarnation was solid black as opposed to the two-tone paint job seen in Episode VI.

    "They had a heck of a time shooting the thing," explains Bies of the shot looking at the mask coming down. "Kim Marks, who shot it, tried to get the angle right. When you get it over the lens, it distorted crazily because of the wide angle. So they had to tilt it. It's really angled forward and looks more ominous."

    For the side angle shot of the mask lowering onto Anakin face, it was actually a composite since Hayden Christensen had already been photographed in Sydney separately a year earlier.
     
  2. MegaPrime33

    MegaPrime33 Well-Known Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I just read this too, and posted it over at the rebelscum. I thought it was a great read and a great insight into what went into the helmet
     
  3. SithLord

    SithLord Sr Member

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    Interesting and thanks for sharing. That reveal helmet detail is awesome. Don is a very nice guy and, although... from discussing with him on more than one occasion, even in person, and seeing his tour video of the archives when he was curator in the early 80s... for having studied the mask it is too bad he doesn't know whether there is an original ANH helmet in the archives. It really seems there isn't one. If anyone else has had experience with him about that I'd be interested in hearing whether I'm off base in thinking that....

    :cheers,

    Thomas
     
  4. KevVader

    KevVader Sr Member

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    ...that is a great read. I winced in the right place, I think. I wonder how many SW props are in landfills around England and Cali. :cry
     
  5. jme3

    jme3 Sr Member

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    I'd love to talk with this guy to get his insight into the original detail parts used on the ROTJ reveal. If anyone would know it should be him I think.
     
  6. Darth Detroit

    Darth Detroit Sr Member

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    Yeah, I winced at the symetrical vader mask part also. :lol This is really good reading. Fan made tusks... imagine that.
     
  7. SithLord

    SithLord Sr Member

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    He's fairly approachable. If you have specific questions, PM me and I could get you in contact with him.

    :cheers,

    Thomas
     
  8. gonk27

    gonk27 Sr Member

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    Thanks for posting probe droid, that's a very interesting read.

    Don's a great guy, he's been a huge help to R2 builders like me over the years and has given out a lot of info we'd have never known otherwise.


    Ok I really want to know, who's the fan that sold Don the Vader tusks????? anyone here? :)



    Jeremy
     
  9. jme3

    jme3 Sr Member

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    PM sent...



     
  10. SithLord

    SithLord Sr Member

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    Not me....maybe Russ Rep?


    :cheers,

    Thomas
     
  11. CTF

    CTF Sr Member

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    Anyone got caps or stills from that scene?

    I'm guessing he just picked them up off eBay? There a quite a few folks on there selling them (and a lot are exactly the same).

    Kinda OT, but who was the dude who Don got the R2 lid from?
     
  12. Jack Bauer

    Jack Bauer Well-Known Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Great little piece. Thanks.

    Imagine if they'd thrown away that crate. Imagine if you were a prop house dumpster diver and came across it.

    Noone would believe you. LOL.

    I like how the "tusks" were fan bought. Wonder who it was. Heck, might be the guy I got mine from. LOL.
     
  13. Probe Droid

    Probe Droid Master Member

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    I thought the same thing.

    Glad you guys liked the piece.
     
  14. R2D2_GUY

    R2D2_GUY New Member

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    This is a quote from the R2 builders board. The builders name is Jason Smith. A really great guy. I knew about this a while back. Very cool.

    Don Bies is a great asset to the R2 builders group. He always helps out with info and pointers. I can't say enough good about him.

    Mike Senna
     
  15. gonk27

    gonk27 Sr Member

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    That's cool I've got some of Brett's tusks.

    (I'd better look after them as they're now uber screen accurate.)


    Jeremy
     
  16. Corellianexports

    Corellianexports Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Any one know if the "tusks" were originally found items?

    I came across a part from an AutoLite spark plug that looks darn close.
     
  17. Sluis Van Shipyards

    Sluis Van Shipyards Master Member

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    Not only that, there'd be a thread 12 pages deep with people giving detailed comparisons showing why it's not real. :lol
     
  18. Darth Detroit

    Darth Detroit Sr Member

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    Woah, woah.... They used Brett's tusks?. I HAVE A SET ON MY MASK.....
    :thumbsup YESSSSSSSSSS....
     
  19. Darth Cross

    Darth Cross Well-Known Member

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    If you're talking about Obi-Wan's droid that got destroyed, that was an R&J dome.
     
  20. Lan Jenn

    Lan Jenn Well-Known Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Man, I might have to have more of these tusks made and offer them up again. :lol
     
  21. womo68

    womo68 Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    you're a star now dude. The secrets out. :eek :D


    womo
     
  22. Darth Detroit

    Darth Detroit Sr Member

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    Brett, if you do I will buy another set just because. :) It was nice talking to you again man. :thumbsup B)
     
  23. Darth Domain

    Darth Domain Well-Known Member

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    Makes you wanna get a metal detector eh :(
     
  24. Megatron

    Megatron Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Don is the MAN.
    Not just an Droid wrangler...
     
  25. Umbra

    Umbra New Member

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    verry interesting thank you
     
  26. Darth Kahnt

    Darth Kahnt Sr Member

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    ... or better yet a fiberglass detector. ;)
     
  27. Darth Domain

    Darth Domain Well-Known Member

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    This is true, guess i didn't think before i posted :lol
    So, where can i buy a fibre glass detector?
     
  28. darth_manu

    darth_manu Well-Known Member

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    man awesome let see the ILM cheque?
    hehe
     
  29. CTF

    CTF Sr Member

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    Yeah, let us see the check please. :)
     
  30. R2D2_GUY

    R2D2_GUY New Member

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    You guys are nuts. I reposted the message from another group. The guy who received the check is not a member here.

    Mike Senna
     
  31. Westies14

    Westies14 Master Member

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    Sure he is.
     
  32. WebChief

    WebChief Sr Member

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    I and a few other New England Garrison members had the pleasure of having dinner with Don Bies last Friday night on a trip to California we did last week. Don's a great guy. I specifically brought up the reveal mask to him and he mentioned fans knowing more about it then even he did. :lol
     

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