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Dark Side Of The Force: 15 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About Darth Vader

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Dark Side Of The Force: 15 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About Darth Vader

The iconic face of the Empire in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, Darth Vader sends chills down the spines of every fan and newcomer alike. With his augmented Force abilities, lightsaber prowess and heavy breathing, the Sith Lord became one of the most prominent villains in the franchise and one of pop culture’s all-time greatest villains.

RELATED: Star Wars: 15 Times the Marvel Comics Were Better Than the Movies

As leader of the Galactic Empire, there is much about Vader behind the scenes that often goes unsaid and remained a mystery. The act of putting together such an iconic figure took a lot of moving parts. If not for these moving parts, fans would have gotten a much lesser product of the Vader we know and love, or no Vader at all. Therefore, we decided to take a look at the many tidbits from behind the scenes that greatly affected the character’s destiny in the “Star Wars” franchise.

15. VADER WAS SUPPOSED TO DIE IN EPISODE IV

Darth Vader Chokes Rebel

Despite his imposing visage and ability to mow down rebel scum in mere seconds, Vader almost didn’t make it through the “Star Wars” trilogy. In fact, he was originally set to die in “A New Hope.” With George Lucas having not fully planned out the scripts yet, and the fact that the first Star Wars was seen by many as a huge gamble, the plan was to originally kill Vader off during the famous trench run in which Luke Skywalker would blow up the Death Star.

However, it was decided that the character would be kept alive in the end. It’s also important to note that Vader only appears in the film for a grand total of 12 minutes. The success of “A New Hope” clearly led to him being more heavily featured moving forward, though killing off a villain that audiences know so little about who had so little screentime is likely what led to Lucas keeping the Sith Lord around a bit longer. Needless to say that creative decision paid off rather massively.

14. VADER’S HELMET WASN’T IN ORIGINAL DESIGN

Darth Vader

Vader’s aesthetic and character design is one of the most iconic things about him, particularly when it comes to his helmet. Apparently, the helmet was not an original part of his regular costume, and viewers were supposed to see him fully unmasked. Instead, the mask had been made solely for the purpose of being his spacesuit. The early designs for the helmet were made such that when Vader was crossing from spaceships, he would have to wear it.

Originally, Lucas was going to go with the more traditional Sith Lord garb akin to that of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Maul, meaning a simple hood and dark robes. In the end, Lucas decided that the helmet would remain part of Vader’s character, as it made him more unique and made him stand out. Given that his suit housed his respirator, it eventually blended well with his overall design. At this point, it would’ve been hard to picture Vader without his iconic helmet, as it did add an air of mystery and intrigue while adding an extra element of fear to the character.

13. VADER’S MASK WAS DESIGNED BY RALPH MCQUARRIE

Ralph Mcquarrie Vader Helmet Design

The man behind the early sketches and designs of the mask, the late Ralph Mcquarrie was a top-notch designer in films for several decades. Lucas sought out the veteran designer for his work, and he quickly became one of the more underrated names in the entire trilogy’s artistic operation. In addition to his helmet conception designs, he would go on to play instrumental roles in artistic and concept designs for “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.”

Though he died in 2012, his work still has a huge impact on the “Star Wars” franchise, with several of his designs used posthumously in “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” television series. McQuarrie was well known for more than his work in a galaxy far, far away, as he also did work for a number of other films and television series. Such works include the 1978 series “Battlestar Galactica,”  “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Cocoon,” and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.”

12. GEORGE LUCAS DIDN’T LIKE DAVID PROWSE’S ACCENT

David Prowse Darth Vader

Everyone knows about Vader’s iconic voice in James Earl Jones, but few ever talk about the man literally walking the walk inside the Vader costume: David Prowse. The actor most known for portraying the physical, walking embodiment of Vader, Prowse signed on for the role believing he would be getting to play all of it. However, he got more than he bargained for when it was revealed that he wouldn’t be doing any of the speaking lines, and instead be reduced to only using the mannerisms. Thus, James Earl Jones was chosen to provide the voice.

Apparently, the reason was due to his thick British accent, of which Lucas didn’t feel would go over well with how he envisioned Vader should sound. As a result, he wanted a more intimidating voice. Needless to say, Prowse was rather disappointed. Hailing from Bristol in the United Kingdom, he earned himself the nickname “Darth Farmer” from his “Star Wars” colleagues for his country accent. Despite not being the Sith Lord’s voice, Prowse remains influential in his role as Vader.

11. JAMES EARL JONES WENT UNCREDITED IN FILMS

James Earl Jones

To say that “Star Wars” was a gamble is putting it very lightly, and the first film was a calculated risk for actors to participate in. In fact, it was such that Jones requested to not be listed in the credits for both “A New Hope” and “Empire Strikes Back.” When asked why, he gave two reasons, one of which was admitted later in his career.

Prior to voicing Vader, Jones had stated that he felt he hadn’t done enough work to earn the role even though he was already well on his way to a decorated acting career, having been in a number of films including “Dr. Strangelove” and the 1972 biographical film “Malcolm X.” He would later state that, given that he was still in his 20’s by the times both films were released, Jones was still an upcoming actor who was worried about becoming typecast, which was interesting given the roles he had played up to that point. Now listed in the special editions of the trilogy, Jones’ impact can be felt even to this day, and his return to voice Vader in “Rogue One” reminded fans that he still hasn’t lost his touch after all these years.

10. VADER’S UNIQUE HELMET SOUNDS

Darth Vader Helmet

Jones may have provided the voice for Vader, but he was not responsible for the iconic sounds and deep breathing. In fact, it is thanks to Ben Burtt that we have been blessed with Vader’s respirator breaths, which is made through rather unconventional means: a scuba regulator. Using this tool, Burtt simply recorded himself breathing through it, and that’s how we were blessed with Vader’s breathing.

Burtt is well-respected as a sound designer in the “Star Wars” franchise. He is the man behind the creation of R2’s voice as well as the sound of the lightsabers and blasters. Burtt was also responsible. Burtt’s work as a sound designer also includes “Phantom Menace,”  the 2009 “Star Trek” remake, and “Wall-E,” where he is also responsible for the robot’s voice.  To this day he remains a respected sound designer in Hollywood, taking home four Academy Awards for Sound Effects Editing in “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “E.T.,” and “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade.”

9. ORSON WELLES WAS TAPPED TO BE VADER’S VOICE

Orson Welles

As much as viewers love the voice of James Earl Jones for Vader, he wasn’t Lucas’ first choice for the imposing Sith Lord. The main guy he tapped for the job was Orson Welles. While its unclear as to how much interest Welles had in the role, Lucas opted for the young Jones instead, stating that Welles’s voice would have been too recognizable.

Known for his work on the critically acclaimed “Citizen Kane,” Welles would have certainly been a big name attached to a project like “Star Wars.” In addition to his work in theater, Welles was lauded for more than just his acting ability, as he frequently also took on an active role in producing, writing, and directing films. “Citizen Kane” was the first film in which he managed to do all four, and it is still lauded as one of the most influential movies of all time. Even though it’s hard to imagine a Vader without Jones’s voice, one can only imagine how he would be perceived had Welles taken up the role instead.

8. DARTH VADER WASN’T ALWAYS ANAKIN

Darth Vader Rogue One

Surprisingly, one of the biggest aspects of Vader’s character was not what he became, but what he originally was, as Lucas did not originally have the Sith Lord be Luke’s father when “A New Hope” was conceived. In fact, that crucial plot point was not added to the franchise until the scripts for “Empire Strikes Back” were being written and drafted.

Not only that, but also Vader and Anakin Skywalker were written as separate characters during the original conception of the story, with the former set to be his own man. Given that he was also written to die in the first film of the original trilogy, Vader was set to have a rather short shelf life in the franchise. The galaxy far far away would have looked rather differently had Anakin and Vader not been the same person. With these kinds of details, one can only wonder what the fates of other “Star Wars” characters may have looked like.

7. ALMOST NOBODY KNEW VADER WAS LUKE’S FATHER

Darth Vader I Am Your Father

These days, the buzz around the new “Star Wars” trilogy is centered around Rey’s origins (another Skywalker? Or a Kenobi perhaps?). The same thing occurred back in the days of the original trilogy, as none of the cast outside of a select few knew Vader’s deepest secret. It was one of several important changes that were made to the script of “Empire Strikes Back” and arguably the biggest that came as a result of making Vader and Anakin the same person.

The secret was such that only five people out of the entire making of the film were aware of this development: Jones, who voiced Vader; director Irvin Kershner; writer Lawrence Kasdan; Mark Hamill, who played Luke; and Lucas himself. Not even Prowse, who physically portrayed Vader, knew the truth. He was even told to act out the scene by saying different lines than what Jones was given in order to elicit the desired reaction from Hamill. The new trilogy has no doubt taken the lead from the original in this regard, holding plot details close to the chest alongside the mystery of Rey’s parents, which has led to much theory crafting among the fanbase.

6. VADER HAS BEEN PLAYED BY MANY DIFFERENT ACTORS

Darth Vader unmasked

Vader’s presence is such a powerful one that it took more than one actor to play him. While Jones provided the voice in all three films of the original trilogy and Prowse is well-known for playing him in all of them, he wasn’t the only one to wield the power of the Sith in the franchises’ big-screen portrayals.

In the Anakin era during the prequel trilogy, Jake Lloyd played the child Anakin, with the much-criticized Hayden Christensen taking the role during his early Padawan and Jedi Knight days. Near the end of “Revenge of the Sith,” Christensen even got the opportunity to wear the full Vader get up. Moving back to the original trilogy, Bob Anderson took over for Prowse for the purpose of lightsaber duels, and C. Andrew Nelson took over the role in the special edition re-release of the trilogy. Sebastian Shaw portrayed the unmasked Vader shortly before his death. More recently, Spencer Wildling and Daniel Naprous both played the character in “Rogue One, ” which makes for a whopping total of nine actors, demonstrating the physically monumental task of what it takes to play a character like Vader.

5. LUKE CUTTING VADER’S ARM WAS FROM THE EU

Luke Skywalker Lightsaber Duel With Darth Vader

If there’s one thing that’s almost a certain about a lightsaber duel, it’s the increased possibility that an arm or hand could be lost. Vader is certainly no stranger to this phenomenon, having lost an arm three times in his life thanks to Dooku, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke. However, the third time he lost an arm was thanks to some inspiration provided by the Expanded Universe (which is no longer considered part of “Star Wars” continuity) book titled “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.”

In this particular book within the EU, Luke and Vader duel, with the former cutting off the latter’s right arm. This element was used in “Return of the Jedi” when Luke performed the same action as he does in the book. “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” caught the eye of the franchise, who was originally going to use it as a lower budget sequel to “A New Hope.” Fortunately, the box office spoke a little louder, so the plan was abandoned.

4. VADER’S IMPERIAL THEME DIDN’T EXIST UNTIL EPISODE V

Darth Vader And Imperial Officer

For those who adore the musical wonder of John Williams throughout the original trilogy, you might notice that the iconic “Imperial March” isn’t a part of the musical score for “A New Hope.” Why is it not included? The answer is a simple one: it didn’t exist yet.

Upon its inception, it was very unclear as to how the first film would perform in theaters. Given Vader’s limited screentime, he didn’t have his iconic theme (or any personal theme) drafter yet. After the film broke the box office by making $220M during its initial run in the theaters ($869M after inflation) on a budget of $11 million, the iconic track was made for “Empire Strikes Back,” allowing Vader to come out in full force as the intimidating villain he was meant to be. The fact that it hadn’t been made shows how, in comparison to its other films, “A New Hope” was a very risky project that few wanted to fully associate themselves with, as many saw the film tanking once it hit theaters.

3. VADER’S CASTLE IN ROGUE ONE HAS SIGNIFICANT MEANING

Darth Vader Tube

In Vader’s first on-screen appearance in theaters since “Revenge of the Sith” and his first in the era of the original trilogy since 1983, he appears in some sort of mysterious tower where he stays in cryostasis when he’s not overseeing the Empire. He blesses fans with his presence during his audience with Olsen Krennic. However, there’s a bit more to his castle than meets the eye.

According to co-production designer Doug Chiang, Vader’s castle is designed for him with the sole purpose of it being the place he goes to in order to heal and meditate, which, given his physical condition, is an invaluable asset. Like Jedha was to the Jedi, this castle is akin to that of a sacred place for Vader, a place where he can come away from the influence of the Empire. Vader’s castle has lava that flows through a specific channel, giving it energy. While the foundation it’s built on is still a mystery, there’s no doubt that whatever it is has strong ties to the Force, and has been crucial in keeping Vader as strong and powerful as he’s been all these years in his condition.

2. LUKE WAS INITIALLY SUPPOSED TO BECOME THE NEW VADER

Luke Skywalker In Return Of The Jedi

Luke’s final duel against Darth Vader is one of the most iconic of the franchise, as father is pitted against son and he manages to defeat him. After he manages to save Luke from Palpatine by throwing his fellow Sith down the Death Star reactor shaft, he is unmasked for the final time before his death. While he is given a death and celebrates, that scene is supposed to go a little differently.

In the original drafts, after unmasking his father, Luke was set to don the mask and declare himself as Vader in his father’s place. However, Lucas seemed to think the ending wasn’t a proper one for children, which is who he stated his franchise was aimed towards. A more mature and darker ending like that could have potentially gone over well with the fans, especially given that it expanded beyond what Lucas’s original targeted audience was. Therefore, fans got the more cheerful ending on Endor with the rebels celebrating their victory alongside the Ewoks on Endor. Seeing Luke become Vader could have become one of the most iconic moments ever in science fiction while marking it a more tragic fate for the Skywalker family.

1. VADER WAS LUCAS’S FIRST CHARACTER

Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back

Throughout all of the story drafts, no matter what form or changes the scripts and designs went through, Vader was always a plan. In fact, he was the first character that Lucas created as he developed the overall concepts of “Star Wars.” Through the thick and thin, Vader was always in the cards for Lucas, and the franchise is all the better for it.

At one point, he was General Vader. As Lucas continued to flesh out Vader’s backstory, which had originally involved more Sith and additional characters by the name of Prince Valorum and Kane Starkiller, he eventually arrived at the title of Darth Vader. From here, the decisions were made regarding his design and keeping his helmet as a regular part of his costume and casting his iconic roles. Since his introduction in 1977, Vader’s impact has become one of the most recognized figures in science fiction and throughout all of pop culture while effectively becoming the face of the “Star Wars” franchise. The first character to kick off a global phenomenon, there is no doubting Vader holds a special place in the heart of Lucas and the multitude of “Star Wars” fans everywhere.

Are there any little-known facts about Vader that you feel we should know? Let us know in the comments!

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