The Star Wars Space Armies of John Mollo
Above: (1) Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith – evil figurehead of the Imperial Forces. (2) A member of Darth Vader’s Guard Corps. Notice the Vader style helmet. (3) This Imperial pilot wears armour in the style of the Stormtroopers.
Just in case you’ve been living under an icy rock in a galaxy far, far away you may not have noticed one of two things. Firstly Sci-Fi-O-Rama hasn’t published any new material for aeons, and secondly, there’s a brand new Starwars Film out. So then, in an effort to bound the two together here’s a rare gem I’ve managed to unearth featuring the original trilogy’s Oscar-winning Costume designer John Mollo.
What follows is a selection of Mollo’s costume designs and notes for ‘Starwars: A New Hope'(1977) and ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ (1980).
“The first Darth Vader was wearing a motorcycle suit, and a sort of opera cloak, and a Nazi steel helmet, and a gas mask, and a medieval breastplate, all from different departments, all brought in together and put on, and it seemed to work”
All drawings are rendered in a weighty rudimentary fashion that really signals the utilitarian ‘used-future’ aesthetic of which the Starwars films are so synonymous with. There’s something of an everyday feel here that is forever Starwars, suffice to say they really pack a punch.
On the Empire: “We agreed early on that the army should have a booted look, like the Germans in 1939, but actually their tunics look more like the 1914-18 ones. They’re cut longer. You try not to make the connection too obvious”.
“George wanted Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) to look like a cross between a monk and a samurai knight. It’s never really the principals who pose the problems, so much as the practical stuff for the extras. I remember, for the rebel pilots who have air hoses on their chests, we suddenly went out and got bath overflow pipes for them from the ironmonger’s outside the studio. We bought fifty, and he looked rather surprised.”
“Uniforms are really difficult to make so that they look good. It’s very easy to make them look bad, Basically, George wanted the Empire to look like Fascists, and the rebels like casual Americans. The storm troopers are in white instead of black so it’s less obvious. Their headgear is a cross between a flying helmet and a gas mask. Their costumes are quite flimsy, really.”
All images, caption notes and quotes hark from an interview with John Mollo conducted by Nicholas Leahy (1980 I’m guessing) and featured in the 23rd edition of Starburst Magazine.
Starburst is a long-running British Sci-Fi publication that began in the late 70’s and exists now in both digital and print format, Each issue is bursting at the seams with Sci-Fi, Horror and Fantasy treasures with a particular focus on TV and Movie. To be honest browsing through fifty or so publications acquired I was stunned at how many features concerned material I’d never heard of.
Watch this space.