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  YOU ARE IN: EXTRAS

 

A LONG LONG TIME AGO, IN A FILM STUDIO NOT SO FAR AWAY!

Naked Stormtrooper! "Star Wars" extra reveals the secrets of working hard, getting hot, and earning little!
Stormtrooper photo
One of your webmasters in "Star Wars", filmed at Elstree Studios in 1976. Would Star Wars fans please read the notes below before writing in. Thanks.

I recently found this photo taken almost 40 years ago while I was working as an extra on the original Star Wars, Episode IV. The Stormtrooper photo is quite small and faded but I have tried to electronically enhance the colours to show as much detail as possible. The costume was mostly simple moulded fibreglass/plastic stuff which was held together with black elasticated straps that can't be seen against the baggy black "silk" undergarment. The picture was taken at the end of one days filming just as I was leaving to go back to the "hotel" when I heard that someone had a camera out and I literally pulled it back on at the last minute. Cameras were banned on set so in the pre digital days it was all a bit clandestine.

 If you look at the original release of the film you will see me in some of the shots near the Millennium Falcon ramp and the Death Star docking bay. Look carefully and you may just see that one of the Stormtroopers appears to have only one leg! It fell off and nobody bothered with a retake - I won't reveal the legless Stormtroopers name except for money! Later releases have been re-framed so I understand this can only be seen in the earliest video tape copies of the film. As far as I am aware no DVD releases show this mistake. If you know better then please do get in touch, with a frame grab if possible.

The belt and kneecaps are made of a flexible moulded white plastic/rubber sort of material and are not in the correct position in these photos. Around my neck is a corrugated "yolk" made of heavy rubber type stuff, this neatly covers up the gap between body and helmet! It was quite claustrophobic when first put on but I soon got used to it. The helmet has to be rotated 90 degrees before being put on or removed else it takes your nose with it! It is lined with some smelly yellow foam stuff which is uncomfortable and hot under the studio lights. When we walked we sort of "rattled" along in a most unthreatening manner! There were at least two different "grades" of costume for different shots. Some wore a design that was shiny, the rest a more matt finish, although the lighting made them look similar on screen.

This production was certainly made as cheaply as possible, and many of the crew did not take it particularly seriously, the opposite of we extras who did our best to look menacing - if only they had known then what we know now! As whatever I write here tends to end up on fan web sites - often with my words badly edited. There is plenty of detailed costume information on the internet - see below. All I will add is that I went there, got extremely hot, came home, and eventually got paid. As my money cane via an agent I did not even keep a copy of the cheque!

 For some obscure safety reason I did not have my gun with me when these pictures were taken on an adjacent stage at the end of the days shooting, pity as it was based on a real U.S. gun. I suspect the lifelike appearance is the reason that all armaments, both Imperial and Rebel were locked away safely at night. I believe that one extra got into serious trouble for taking his "gun" out of the studio area when he went for "a comfort break" or something to eat during the day. This aspect was quite strict! I seem to remember that the miscreant got thrown off the set, whether permanently or not I can't say.

As you can see the costume was quite well worn and one of the upper legs had been repainted, but none of this shows in the world of movie magic where the film lights make even dull stuff shine. Look closely though and it is easy to see that some of the armour has a very yellow tint to it. It has been suggested that this costume had already been used in filming in Tunisia. As I only worked on the movie for a very short time I cannot add any more. Later Star Wars episode Stormtrooper costumes are completely different to this very early original example although the chronology of the films shows these later costumes before this episode!

No, I didn't get the star's autographs nor do I have the costume for sale unfortunately, I'll bet it would be worth a small fortune now! I believe the older and damaged costumes were scrapped and the better parts made up into Stormtrooper armour used for publicity at the premieres around the world. A former colleague who worked for Rank Theatres publicity department tells me there is a picture taken at the premiere in Leicester Square, London, and another taken in Brighton that shows a Stormtrooper Parade where the costumes look identical to this one except they showed many more signs of repair with obvious metal rivets showing where the black straps had pulled loose. Due to copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce either picture here but try Googling for "Stormtrooper Parade, Evening Argus, Brighton". 

I will now answer my most commonly asked question which is the same one that astronauts are often asked about space micturition - "with great difficulty but front and back don't meet in the middle, so with a bit of levering...!" Finally below is a link to an excellent site about these costumes, I'm in the photograph third from the end of the page, but which Stormtrooper am I? A close look at the detail (every costume was slightly different) appears to show that I am in the second row on the extreme right hand side of the frame. ;-)

http://web.ukonline.co.uk/bingo275/realstormprops.htm was a well researched site about these costumes with much information. It now seems to have moved, does anyone know where to? Apparently it's still available on archive.org. Anyone know where it can be viewed properly now?

 
   
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