8 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Star Wars’ Costumes
Costumes and makeup played an important and often-overlooked role in making the six 'Star Wars' movies sensational sci-fi masterpieces that, even today, nothing has really matched. They were at the center of an engrossing experience that made the viewer literally feel as though they had been transported to a distant galaxy far, far away.
Put simply, what would the franchise have been like without the menacing sound of Darth Vader breathing through his helmet? Without Chewy’s huggable "walking carpet" fur? Or without the quaint little robes worn by the Jawas? Answer: Nowhere near as enthralling. So on that note, we have picked out eight interesting costume facts that you probably didn’t know about.
As is painfully obvious, the three 'Star Wars' prequel films are heavy on CGI and light on physical models and sets. This makes the complicated action sequences involving acrobatic lightsaber battles a lot more feasible to produce; but it also detracts from the organic feel the original movies thrived on.
The percentage of CGI used compared to more traditional methods was so high, in fact, that not even one clone trooper costume was required for filming. Every single clone trooper you see in all of the three movies is digitally rendered, despite the apparent ease you’d have thought it would've been to use real actors in costumes.
Due in part to the relatively tight budget George Lucas had for the first Star Wars movie, 'A New Hope,' the C-3PO outfit worn by Anthony Daniels was far from perfect. On the very first day of filming the costume kept falling apart every few minutes, a situation that made working in the deserts of Tunisia an especially grueling task.
This situation was made worse when a section of the left leg shattered and forced itself straight through the plastic covering and into Daniels' foot. Fortunately the injury was minor, but the problems with the costume were never really fixed for the duration of the shoot. Consequently there are numerous sequences where only the top half of C-3PO is in view because Anthony Daniels is not wearing the bottom section of the costume.
When watching 'A New Hope,' banthas appear to be unworldly creatures, similar to nothing else seen on the big screen up until that point. Their sheer size, enormous horns, thick fur and relative lack of facial features make them particularly unique. But, as you may have guessed, all of this is just an elaborate costume sitting atop an animal we are all very familiar with -- an elephant. A female Asiatic elephant named ‘Mardji’ borrowed from a theme park in Southern California, to be precise.
Getting the elephant to actually wear the outfit on set was no picnic. Due to the extreme temperatures of the Death Valley shooting location (officially the hottest place on Earth) Mardji was constantly restless. Although she was well trained, the thick fur costume was understandably intolerable in the desert heat, which caused her to continually try to remove it. It’s basically the equivalent of transporting a wooly mammoth from the ice age and dumping it in a scorching desert -- it’s just not going to find it comfortable.
After filming of 'A New Hope' concluded, the robe worn by Alec Guinness in the movie was, until a few years ago, thought to be lost. In 2005, a clerk performing a stock check on monk costumes in the warehouse of a London based costume retailer noticed one of them had a rather oddly shaped hood, so he immediately put it on and showed his manager. To both of their glee it became quite apparent what they had discovered was the legendary Obi-Wan Kenobi robe, missing for nearly 30 years.
Amusingly the company was using the cloak for all of that time, but nobody knew its true value. It was used by Universal in their 1999 movie 'The Mummy' for a background character and was even rented out to the general public as a monk costume for Halloween parties. In 2007 the cloak was put up for auction and sold for £54,000 (equivalent to about $102,000 at the time).
The esteemed horror movie actor Peter Cushing, who played the role of Grand Moff Tarkin in 'A New Hope,' found it quite painful to wear the boots provided with his costume as they were too small for his feet. After discussing the problem with George Lucas it was agreed the shots where Tarkin’s feet would be in view would be limited. Cushing was permitted to wear a pair of slippers instead, and albeit comfortable, they looked somewhat out of place with his Imperial uniform on set.
Camera operators made sure to film above his knees or behind an obstacle, such as the table in the conference room. This meant Cushing could have nice warm and cozy feet whenever he was on the Death Star.
Carrie Fisher, aka Princess Leia, was ordered to squish her breasts down with gaffer tape because George Lucas insisted there was “no underwear in space." Simply removing her bra was not a solution as her nipples could be seen through the costume. The gaffer tape was needed to make sure that didn’t happen. It’s also been said the only directions given to Carrie Fisher by George Lucas for the duration of filming 'A New Hope' were either "go faster" or "more intense."
According to Mark Hamill, Chewbacca’s costume was at one point going to be re-designed to incorporate shorts or another type of below-the-waist clothing item. This is because some studio executives were unhappy about the loveable character’s stark nakedness.
In hindsight, this seems quite absurd. After all Chewy is covered in fur, much like a dog, and they aren’t required to wear clothes in public. So despite Chewy appearing au naturel in the final cut the movie did not receive an "R" rating. Phew.
Carrie Fisher complained the costumes she had to wear in the first two 'Star Wars' movies made it hard to determine "she was a woman" because they were so long and baggy. In other words, they covered up her womanly curves. These complaints led to her wearing the now infamous Jabba slave costume in 'Return of the Jedi.'
According to members of the crew, due to the impracticalities of the bra section of the outfit, it became necessary to check her breasts before each take to make sure they were sitting correctly –- some scenes even had to be re-shot because of "wardrobe accidents." Stop drooling, fanboys.