Don Bies Talks Vader Mask/Helmet

Probe Droid

Master Member
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.
 

MegaPrime33

Well-Known Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
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
 

SithLord

Sr Member
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
 

KevVader

Sr Member
...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
 

jme3

Sr Member
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.
 

SithLord

Sr Member
Originally posted by jme3@Mar 16 2006, 05:52 PM
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.
[snapback]1207235[/snapback]​
He's fairly approachable. If you have specific questions, PM me and I could get you in contact with him.

:cheers,

Thomas
 

gonk27

Sr Member
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
 

jme3

Sr Member
PM sent...



Originally posted by SithLord+Mar 16 2006, 05:12 PM--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(SithLord @ Mar 16 2006, 05:12 PM)</div>
<!--QuoteBegin-jme3
@Mar 16 2006, 05:52 PM
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.
[snapback]1207235[/snapback]​
He's fairly approachable. If you have specific questions, PM me and I could get you in contact with him.

:cheers,

Thomas
[snapback]1207251[/snapback]​
[/b]
 

SithLord

Sr Member
Originally posted by gonk27@Mar 16 2006, 06:18 PM

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



Jeremy
[snapback]1207254[/snapback]​

Not me....maybe Russ Rep?


:cheers,

Thomas
 

CTF

Sr Member
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?
 

Jack Bauer

Well-Known Member
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.
 

R2D2_GUY

New Member
FYI...

In that recent Homing Beacon interview with Don, it mentioned the fact
that he bought the Vader helmet tusks from a "fan"...That was me...I
even have the check from ILM to prove it :)

(I know, I know...Some of you already know that)

But what you did NOT know is that I actually got them from Brett
Landon...So he is now another member of this group that had a connection
to the last Star Wars film ever...

Jason
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
 

gonk27

Sr Member
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
 

Corellianexports

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Any one know if the "tusks" were originally found items?

I came across a part from an AutoLite spark plug that looks darn close.
 

Sluis Van Shipyards

Master Member
Originally posted by Jack Bauer@Mar 16 2006, 08:37 PM
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.

[snapback]1207402[/snapback]​

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

Darth Cross

Well-Known Member
Originally posted by CTF@Mar 17 2006, 01:20 AM
Kinda OT, but who was the dude who Don got the R2 lid from?
[snapback]1207389[/snapback]​
If you're talking about Obi-Wan's droid that got destroyed, that was an R&J dome.
 

Lan Jenn

Well-Known Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Man, I might have to have more of these tusks made and offer them up again. :lol
 
Top