‘Star Wars’: Darth Vader Had 6 Different Helmets for ‘Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back’

Darth Vader’s costume is easily one of the more recognizable in the Star Wars franchise. His intimidating look was designed to near perfection, going through a bunch of major changes throughout the series.

In fact, Darth Vader’s helmet alone was designed with six distinct looks before The Empire Strikes Back was filmed. 

Darth Vader has an unforgettable costume

Darth Vader cosplay
Darth Vader cosplay

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Darth Vader is arguably the most iconic supervillian in entertainment history, and it’s not hard to see why. From his dark, imposing demeanor to his deep, tonal voice, Darth Vader struck fear in the heart of anyone who approached him.

But what truly set him apart was his mechanical, blacked-out out, rhythmic, robotic breathing, and eerie, expressionless helmet. Darth Vader’s appearance alone leaves an unforgettable imprint in viewers minds, which is exactly what George Lucas wanted to do. 

Darth Vader’s original helmet was way too big for actor Dave Prowse

Darth Vader’s helmet has one of the most unique designs in the Star Wars universe. Fashioned to look both mechanical and human at the same time, its features give Vader an uncanny cybernetic appearance. 

Although it’s difficult to guage the size of Darth Vader’s helmet when watching Star Wars films, the helmet was quite large in person. According to BBC, when Dave Prowse (the actor who played Darth Vader) first tried on the helmet, there was a lot of room inside to spare. 

“I said, ‘It’s miles too big! We’ll have to get another one done.’ But they said it looked perfect – and padded it out with foam rubber. It had a Velcro fitting at the base, so when the wind machines were on the thing was still wobbling around.”

Darth Vader had six different helmets for ‘The Empire Strikes Back’

Luckily, the costume department had a better grasp on things by the time the sequels were getting made. Darth Vader’s costume went through a number of changes before filming The Empire Strikes Back to improve both style and comfort. The costume design team created several versions of the costume simultaneously, ensuring there would be many options for use when production started. 

By the time all of the designs were completed, there was no need to make major modifications to the suit for Return of the Jedi, according to the Star Wars website. 

“The costume department made six different helmets for the movie. Some of the changes simply made the costume more comfortable for the actor inside, including the redesign of the mechanism to attach the dome to the mask. The changes made for The Empire Strikes Back worked so well that designs were largely unchanged three years later for Return of the Jedi.”

The most prevalent changes to the helmet visible in The Empire Strikes Back are a larger, v-shaped chin vent, and more amber-tinted lenses.

Darth Vader’s original costume was extremely uncomfortable

Although Darth Vader’s costume is regarded as one of the best to grace the big screen, it was extremely uncomfortable. Dave Prowse, the actor who wore the suit in all three of the original films, told BBC that shooting A New Hope during the hot summer of 1976 only amplified the discomfort of the suit. 

“The suit was made from quilted leather,” Prowse said. “I wore a t-shirt and a pair of swimming trunks underneath – and the heat would rise into the mask and mist up the eye-piece, so you couldn’t see where you were going!”