We skipped a week with this column, but this week, I want to talk about the variations in the stormtrooper costume. Not all stormtroopers are the same, and between each film, there’s minor differences that need to be taken into consideration when building your costume.
I’m just thinking about Stormtroopers this week, but there’s other variations, especially when you look at Clone Troopers, Sandtroopers and others. Between the production of each film, the stormtrooper costumes that were used were changed up in small ways.
Take a look at the examples from the three original trilogy movies. Can you spot the differences?
A New Hope:
Empire Strikes Back:
Return of the Jedi:
They’re subtle, but they’re there. In A New Hope, the frown on the helmet is grey, with black in the middle. The holster is on the right, the hand plates are trapezoidal, and the lenses are a greenish color. In The Empire Strikes Back, the frown is entirely black, the eyes are greyish, the hand plates have changed to clamshells and the holster is on the right. Finally, in The Return of the Jedi, the black frown and hand plates are still there (you can’t see them in this picture), but there’s a trim around the edges of the chest plate. There’s some other minor differences in decals that are too hard to see in these images.
These are admittedly very minor differences between each movie, but it shows an interesting thing that happened between each production: they didn’t recycle parts, but changed them up little by little. Thus, when you put together a trooper, you can’t just pull a reference picture from any of the films: the troopers change each time. Trapezoidal hand plates with an all-black frown or trim around the edges of the chest? Not accurate to any of the movies.
For my purposes, I’m going with the troopers from The Empire Strikes Back. So: black frown and new hand plates for me!
Once George Lucas decided to follow up A New Hope with a sequel, he financed it himself. As a result, many of the original stormtroopers costumes that were used in the first film were brought back for the second. When production began, the team reused the ‘stunt’ helmets (those not used on the heroes), and made some changes. The frown was painted entirely black, and the hand-painted details on the helmet - at the temples, next to the eyes, at the back of the head, at the ears and the stripes - were replaced with vinyl duplicates.
More recently, costume historians have discovered that there were some additional costumes cast for Empire Strikes Back. Early in the film’s production, a total of seven stormtroopers were required during the carbon freezing scenes. Later on, however, the scenes required additional stormtroopers. To fill the demand, the film’s costume designer, John Mollo, indicated that they began creating plaster casts off of the existing sets of armor in existence.
Mollo’s notes also indicated that they assembled the suits a bit differently: they ordered new eyes and liners for the helmets, and used elastic and rivets to hold the shoulders in place. Other straps were put into use to hold the suits together a bit better - probably due to feedback from the actors who were involved in some of the early scenes.
Later, for Return of the Jedi, entirely new stormtroopers were constructed for filming.
We’ve already begun seeing pictures from Rogue One hit the web, and no surprise, there’s stromtroopers in this film. Unfortunately, the pictures are a bit too far away to make out any real details - the only thing that I can see for sure is that these stormtroopers do have trapezoidal handplates, rather than the curved ones. Once the publicity of the film ramps up, we’ll likely get some close looks at the costumes, and see how they line up with the ones from a over four decades ago. Once that happens, we’ll have an entirely new designation of stormtrooper: The RO TK.
Top photo credit: Ashley Fraser.