Original AT-AT (Imperial
Walker) Driver Helmets
from The Empire Strikes Back
|As mentioned elsewhere on this site, when Lucas
came to make The Empire Strikes Back in 1978/79 it appears they tried
to re-use as many of the ANH costumes that they could, with
cost-control in mind given he was funding this himself. So the costume
makers based the AT-AT Driver straight off the TIE Pilot, switching the
colour scheme from Black to Grey
|Since the AT-AT Drivers would only be seen in a
single scene (with a single mocked-up set doubling as two different Walker
cockpit's), they simply took two TIE pilot helmet and armor sets and
re-sprayed them grey. After adding a few greeblies like the hangers, tusks
and rear-helmet tanks the transformation was complete. Note the "grey" point
since there's been a misconception right since people have been looking at
this character since it appeared on-screen in 1980 that it was white, when
in fact it was light grey. It just looked white under bright studio lights!
|Every now and then we get a really great
opportunity to see something special at StarWarsHelmets and this was one
such example. A few years ago we were contacted by the owner of an
original AT-AT helmet, and following this were able to
and put the following review together of a long-lost piece of
Star Wars history. Enjoy!
See our detailed
reviews of this helmet on YouTube... Click here to
..Or just carry on reading
AT-AT Helmet Review
|Essentially there were only two scenes
involving AT-AT's in ESB, both filmed on the same cock-pit set – mocked up to look
like two distinct AT-AT cock-pit’s. These helmets can only be seen on-screen
for a few seconds, however the AT-AT
Driver character has none the less caught the imagination of Star Wars fans as they
piloted those wonderful ubertanks across the snowy wastes of Hoth.
Though what appeared to be four helmets were used in ESB, we've now been
able to confirm that only two were actually made. The two above are in fact
the same as the two below - except with red electrical tape added to the
|For The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas needed some
new Imperial characters to drive the AT-AT’s and John Mollo, the costume
designer opted for an amended version of the ANH-used TIE Fighter helmet.
The most obvious thing to say about this helmet and armour is that despite
them appearing white on-screen, they were in fact painted glossy grey.
I was very fortunate to meet up and discuss the costume design for the Star
Wars films, including the AT-AT, on a number of occasions. He was a
really kind and wonderful guy - and it the fact he was willing to give up
his time for star wars geeks like me says a lot.
|To be clear we're not talking an off-white,
milky-white or white with a hint of grey - these helmets are GREY and
photos from the early eighties back this up - this isn't aging paint. Turning our attention to the
helmet is clear that despite it missing some of its greeblies, its still in
really fantastic condition. The grey paint is in a pretty incredible state for
paintwork over 30 years old. Unlike the HDPE material most Stormtrooper
helmets were made from (which is notorious in its ability to reject paint),
the ABS used on these appears to have positively welcomed the "new" grey spray painting
it received in 1979 -
giving a finish that doesn’t look far different now from what was seen on-screen back in
The Empire Strikes Back.
|As you can see,
this helmet is in fact the "Hero" helmet used in the on-set photoshoot seen
on all the promotions for the character since 1980 - including all the toy's
etc. Again look at the affect the bleached-out lighting has on the helmet,
making the helmet appear white under harsher lighting conditions.
|We can be sure of this as a number of things
clearly match-up including the decal positioning and angles, the overspray
on the lenses, paint detailing, trim lines, cog orientation etc.- as well as
some of the minor tells like the slight dent over its right eye. Note that
helmets will never appear identical in photographs unless the camera
distance, focal length, zoom and aperture are precisely the same, which
is incredibly difficult to emulate. However, even without this its clear
this is the same helmet, just 30 years older!
|Turning our attention to the helmet detailing -
the cog decals appear to be of a slightly higher quality than those used on ANH, and this time
red and printed on better quality clear/transparent backing and have a glossy lustre.
To be clear these are Red on Clear, NOT Red on white or Grey.....
Interestingly they have exactly the same asymmetry as the ANH Cogs -
are appear to be purely red/clear versions of the ANH TIE helmets print
tool/stamp . The tube stripes
look like black electrical tape or possibly automotive/car stripes, trimmed to the required shape on the helmet. You
can still just make out the remnant pencil marks where the cut lines have
|Though spray-painted really well in a glossy
grey, the original black ABS underneath can still be seen in some places and
of course when looking inside its all Black with just a little grey
overspray. From what I could tell the black Mohawk had been spray painted
grey and then Black which I found quite amusing. I did something similar a
few years ago when I sprayed one white without thinking – and then suddenly
remember that it needed to be black and I could have left it as it was in
the first place!
|When painting these for the production of ESB,
it looks like they didn’t mask very well -
hence the overspray on places like the eye lenses (which are the correct
grey double-bubble lenses btw) etc. The inside had a number of other
Ainsworth tells including the type of glue used, as well as the yellow
maple-leaf foam padding, which was also augmented with a couple of
rectangular foam pads, all held in place with copious amounts of gaffer
|The helmet still has one of the original
grey-hoses – which has one end affixed to one of the rear-tanks, the other
side the owner usually loops round to fit into the other side. Not sure if
the hose is actually grey or black-hose that’s merely been pained grey.
Interestingly there are remnants of the oval “tracks” in both tear
trapezoids, though nowhere near as clear as on the original Stunt
Stormtrooper helmets. As a side-issue its worth noting that when comparing
it to the SDS
this detail is not present, but let others draw their own conclusions from
|The rear size hangers are as I always said –
the soda-water CO2 chargers and the one’s currently doing the rounds are
100% accurate – bar the obvious gap in the top where the screw-fitting goes.
On this helmet the centre detailing/circuit board was missing as was the
forehead clock parts and the black tabs that fit above the CO2 chargers.
|Interestingly the front metal tusks did not
connect directly into the front tube slots – instead there was a separate
thick white circular plastic “thing” - seemingly a found plumbing part - that
pushed the tusks forward. I have a couple of sets of metal tusks for my
helmets and although very accurate to the eye – they are just a little too
small and are only a single-piece design - whereas the originals have an
outer sleeve and separate inner "nib" sections.
|The rear pill-box looked just the same as the
original TIE's - although in this instance it had been glued shut and
despite much prompting did not want to open. However it had the same spring
loaded mechanism present on the TIE box and as I’ve always said is probably
a record player needle box
or possibly a box for storing plectrums.
|The rear canisters were screwed, not bolted to
the rear of the helmet (cheap and cheerful prop making for ESB) and I’m
confident these are just off-the-shelf plumbing parts. My next task is to
locate the specific parts used for the original, hopefully including the
correct brand. The canisters have Red and Grey electrical tape adorning
them, with paint flaking off the tanks revealing the white plastic below.
|An indication as to the colour of the helmet
can be seen in this photo as I compared it to a work-in-progress replica
AT-AT. Notice how the colour of the helmet varies dependant on what its
filmed against or next to - as the auto white balance and exposure of modern
camera's take over. I can only presume that they decided to go for the grey
colour when contemplating shooting a white helmet in a bright cock-pit in
front of a snow covered Hoth scene.
I find it funny how in everyone’s consciousness these helmets have always
been bright white – and I’m thinking about the toys here – when in reality
they were a totally different colour. The limited amount of information,
especially quality on-set photos led to a situation where Kenner must have
thought they were white, and no-one at Lucasfilm could suggest otherwise.
|And finally the obligatory "I got to wear a
real Star Wars Helmet" shot. Sorry, couldn't resist!
|So again, thanks to the owner Dom for allowing
StarWarsHelmet.com to review this great piece of movie history. So what are
you waiting for AT-AT fans - get you spray can’s out!
We've added a 3D "Rotating" photo set of this
helmet - Click Here!
The "2nd" AT-AT Helmet
A sad story that turned out okay!
Only the one
picture, but its a good one. Regular contributor CKing's sent me this shot
of him in the early 90's wearing the other screen-used AT-AT
Driver helmets made for The Empire Strikes Back in 1979. This is a great
shot from Chris although on behalf of him I'd like to apologise for the
shirt! Note that the helmet appears white as the photo is significantly over
exposed due to the flash.
|However, the story behind the helmet was quite
interesting especially since its original acquisition was quite similar to
the TIE Pilot Helmet we also featured on
this site. Unfortunately this story does not have a happy ending!.
The AT-AT Driver helmet was owed by Jim "Mr Star Wars" Stevenson from Mansfield, Nottingham
who had/has one of the largest collections of Star Wars items in the UK. In the early 90's he was approached by a guy called Vic Menay. Vic worked as a transport driver for Lucasfilm during the filming of ESB and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Jim bought the helmet and was thrilled with it because it was his first genuine prop from the movie. Several months later, Jim's
house was burgled and the helmet was stolen, along with many other rare items of his Star Wars
toy collection. Though the toys were found by the Police and returned - the helmet was never found.
Note that its clear that "Jim's" helmet is not the same as the one
found just recently, the helmet markings, detailing and decal placements
instead indicate its this helmet, which is seen front-on in single shot.
The fate of this helmet is unknown with rumours that it was either
destroyed by burglars unaware of its importance, or perhaps
retro-fitted back to a black TIE fighter. Both are equally as
depressing!. I suppose we should be thankful one survived!
The Happy Ending
Its nice to be able to report that this helmet resurfaced a few years back
after a couple of decades in the stolen wilderness. After a period of
negotiations between the original owner (Jim Stevenson) and one of the
leading auction houses, it is now in the hands a new owner.
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