What drove me on to keep on improving this suit, spending stupid amounts of cash making it look like the real thing?
When I was wearing the 2005 edition out in Rochester, I had a big variety of responses, all memorable. I think a love of performing is an inherited trait from my family as my older brother is the same. When I'm playing Darth Vader, it's a role that allows me to have some fun with people. But there's a more important reason why I decided on that November to keep going. While swaggering about with the others from work, I was aware of a woman in a wheelchair becoming quite excited at my approach. It seemed she wasn't able to speak, but the carer who was manoeuvring her wheelchair told me she wanted a photograph with me. Having complied with her wish, I could tell I'd just made her day. It was the most personally touching moment.
If I could achieve that with a suit I consider inferior next to the movie version, I could do much more with the next one.
It would be another year before I had a full-on big scale costume ready for a public outing, and funnily enough, once again, it was for charity.
I'd stumbled across a number of sources to pull together the most cost-effective and movie-faithful outfit I could. I'd been stung by the purchase of a helmet that I was told was the bees knees, which it incidentally was not. And there were two more challenges - my fitness and my height.
I had a couple of inches on my waist I had to get shot of. As I was aiming for a faithful Vader appearance, I wanted to body-build a little too. I've been the sufferer of a dodgy spinal disc for more years than I probably know. Funnily enough, this Vader project has helped out my osteopathic issues because both of these goals actually helps lessen the stress on the spine and the intervertebral discs.
Height was something no work-out would help me with. I took boots I purchased to an excellent value local cobbler and together we figured out how to add an extra six inches. The GT chest armour was replaced by a set of more accurate chest armour, which is bigger and painted, but I wanted to try an experiment in adding height to my silhouette by raising both the armour and the helmet off my shoulders.
In 2006, Children In Need Appeal Day was held on November 17th, and this time it was down to my work colleagues and I to do something for the charity. Our employers weren't doing anything officially, but our own efforts became so big that the council adopted it as their own. We wanted to make mega-money this time round, so rather than ask people to pay £2, we asked people to get themselves sponsored to come to work as their favourite fictional Hero or Villain. As incentive, I suggested that the side (Heroes or Villains) who brought in the most money for the charity would be declared the winners. I led the villains as Vader, my partner in crime Dominic led the Heroes as Doctor Who. It worked out very well. We raised over £1500 on that day.
I was worried that the elevated armour and helmet, combined with the high-heeled boots, would actually look pretty dumb, and all this would have been a waste of time, money and effort. My final height in costume is over six foot four. You know what? It looks pretty good.
So, having come this far, I decided to put up a bit of info about what I've done, how I've done it, and where I've been, as a five foot eight fella playing the part of the most iconic villain of movie history.
This site is in no way sponsored or endorsed by: George Lucas, Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts Entertainment Co., or any affiliates. Darth Vader is a trademark and copyright of Lucasfilm Ltd. Star Wars © 2006 Lucasfilm Ltd. This is a chronicle of my own efforts and any action taken using my methods, ideas or advise is done so purely at your own risk. This site, layout, and contents are © 2006 Matthew Ainge or their respective owners.