How did the design of Darth Vader come about?

May 17, 2017
deak star killer
Deak vs Vader

Who designed the original Darth Vader costume?

It’s now the stuff of legend that graphic artist RalphMcQuarrie designs have shaped the Star Wars universe and it’s true that he designed the original look of Darth Vader.

The official Star Wars blog shares some insight:

“Perhaps the most popular of Ralph’s paintings to appear in the portfolio, the laser duel, as he referred to it, was completed in February of 1975.

While the portfolio, and nearly everyone who has discussed this painting in the past 35 years, describes it as “Luke versus Vader,” at the time it was painted, the protagonist would have been Deak Starkiller from the second draft screenplay of the film that Ralph was working from.

Deak Starkiller.

That's a long way from Luke Skywalker!

It was because of this scene that Darth Vader came to have the look that he does.

Ralph, concerned that Vader was jumping from ship to ship through the vacuum of space, felt that he would require some sort of breathing apparatus. George agreed, and the look of the masked villain was born.”

Remember at that stage of the production, the script wasn’t the final version of the film that became A New Hope so it’s cool to see how the  development process lead to the design of one of the greatest villains ever devised for film.

So what are the elements of design that made Vader as a whole come about?
  • Creation of the character by George Lucas
  • Design by Ralph McQuarrie
  • Voice by James Earl Jones
  • Acting by David Prowse
  • Breathing sound designed by Ben Burtt
It's also pretty cool to see that the design concept above is not actually Luke Skywalker versus Vader but is actually Deak Starkiller taking on the Sith Lord in a saber duel!

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