Piercing the Veil: The Imperial Royal Guard Helmet - Part 2
Last time we shared a few of the research notes we gathered at Lucas Museum of Narrative Art archives at Skywalker Ranch while examining the original Imperial Royal Guard Helmets. This time we'll discuss the techniques we are employing to replicate this classic helmet.
Just as the Royal Guard's helmets were initially created in a different, unique way from other helmets in the Original Trilogy, so too would ours.
Okay, so here’s our Imperial Royal Guard Helmet:
- Our helmet's shell is made of fiberglass and finished to match the look of the original.
- The helmet's interior is fully lined with adjustable padded cushions to ensure a comfortable, and secure fit.
- Our helmet is painted the precise shade of "Candy Apple Red" that Star Wars: Return of the Jedi designers Aggie Rodgers and Nilo Rodis-Jamero chose for the Royal Guard, and polished to a high gloss.
So why use fiberglass when the original helmets were made from thermal-formed plastic? Strength, and durability. While beautiful, the original helmets were never intended to last much beyond filming the movie. Of course, our replica had to be built tough enough to stand the test of time. Thermally-formed plastic is flexible, and that could easily lead to damage with a piece with this much plastic real estate. When plastic flexes it can crack the paint finish. We want this helmet look just as good years into the future as it does the day it comes out of the box, and so fiberglass provides the needed scaffolding for a truly wearable, serviceable piece.
Recall for a moment that one of the weird things we discovered about the original helmets was the odd way in which they were made. Originally sculpted in one piece, the helmets were manufactured in two thermally formed halves joined together vertically with a number of thin, glued plastic rectangles right up the middle of the sculpt starting from the back lip to the front. We could easily see a rough puttied line along the seam while examining the exterior back of the helmet. The sort of structural putty used to join these two halves together is subject to stress in the form of torsion or torque. The exact sort of stress placed on the helmet simply by wearing it, could cause the plastic to flex. This flexing would in turn cause the putty joining the two vertical halves of the helmet to split eventually leading to structural collapse. We couldn't have that, and it's another reason we opted to craft our replica from fiberglass.
The original helmet's internal geometry is weird as well. Designed to look fearsome, it featured sunken cheeks, a single visor, and intentionally slender, otherworldly proportions. The original helmet was so narrow that when Pete Ronzani (Head of the Jedi Plastics Department) mocked up, and tried on the first prototype Guard helmet - the sides of it touched his face. Our helmet has been engineered to be a bit more forgiving on the inside than that first attempt. It's been lined for both a finished appearance, and for comfort. And to insure a proper fit, it comes with moveable pads to adjust the helmet to the wearer's ideal size.
And that leaves us with the most striking aspect of this piece, it's color. It's not just "red." In stark contrast to the Empire's ordinary monochrome look, the red Royal Guards signal the arrival of The Emperor himself. No ordinary red would do for The Emperor's most fearsome warriors, and so Jedi costume designer Aggie Rodger - recalling some cars from George Lucas' classic American Graffiti, used a very specific shade of "Candy Apple Red" from a few of the hot rods in that film. That beautifully rich, red color is just as vibrant today on the surviving helmets in the archive as it was in 1982, and so we were able to precisely match it for our replica. A strikingly cool color for the hot rod of Imperial helmets.
I said last time that the Imperial Royal Guard Helmet was one of my favorites in the entire franchise, and I meant it. It's bold, it’s red, it’s creepy, and I love it. Oh and Mom, I'm sorry about the book (but really, it didn't spoil the movie for me).