A brief history of the design of Darth Vader
Kylo Ren may be obsessed with Darth Vader but the rest of the world got there well before him.
As he did so, he stepped into movie infamy as one of the greatest villains ever.
He was like a caped black knight, spewing evil from that robotic face. Not to mention that terse, measured breathing that was utterly terrifying.
It was just sinister. Vader was a big deal, even before the most infamous reveal of his fathering Luke Skywalker.
“A villain like Darth Vader is simply a cinematic flash of genius, destined to be a great film icon forever. The reason we fear him so much is because he partly reflects ourselves.”
Got it, thanks French dude.
Who came up with him and his look?
And the meaning of his name?
Read on, Star Wars fan, read on.
How did the concept of Vader develop?
When Lucas was throwing around ideas for his ‘Journal of the Whills’ concept he wrote down the name of ‘General Vader’ who he noted was an Imperial Commander.
Eventually, Lucas fashioned the character as a ‘Black Knight of the Sith’ who served the ‘Master of Sith’.
This was during 1975 at which time Lucas asked Ralph McQuarrie to turn this concept into a drawn character.
When McQuarrie learned that Vader (as it was then in the script) was to cross through the cold vacuum of space to enter Leia’s spaceship, he added the mask.
Obviously, the reasons for Vader needing the mask were made more interesting later on.
In keeping with this minor Nazi influence, Stormtroopers were named after specialist German soldiers from the same era. Counterpoint: Vader was not German for Dark Father.
Here’s a great interview with Muir explaining the process.
Lucas had other ideas and tried to hire the great filmmaker Orson Welles (speaking or Welles, check out our Theory About Director Krennic’s name) with no success.
This was just as well for James Earl Jones got the gig and Vader’s final ingredient was found. Jones recorded his lines in 2 and a half hours and received a small cheque for his time.
Jones also chose to not receive an on-screen credit as he thought his role was too small.
This was eventually rectified when Star Wars become a global smash again with Empire Strikes Back.
The microphone was placed in the regulator.
To get the sound just right, these recordings were played in empty rooms and re-recorded to get that ‘from the helmet’ sounding effect.
Who was that guy that played Vader in Jedi?
It was the big reveal moment, father and son eyeballing each other for the first, and last time in their lives.
Veteran English actor Sebastian Shaw was hired. His scene was filmed in secret so as to hold off on the ‘surprise’ as long as possible.
It is Shaw who stands as a Force ghost with Yoda and Obi-Wan in the original form, replaced by Hayden Christiansen in the Special Edition.
In the real world, the specific prop was an old promotional mask that was used from the promotional touring that took place after the premiere of A New Hope.
In the movie realm, the mask and helmet that Kylo Ren is holding when he talks to his grandfather Vader in The Force Awakens appears to have been retrieved from the pyre.