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The Phantom Menace at 25: FBFX and the Podracer helmet

A sketch by George Lucas, a pair of welding goggles and a Slave 1-inspired paint job. Grant Pearmain and Andrew Dow, co-founders of FBFX, remember the creation of Anakin Skywalker’s iconic Podracer helmet from The Phantom Menace.

"FBFX’s main job on Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was creating hard components for around 60 Naboo soldiers, working closely with costume designer Trisha Biggar and costume assistant Michael Mooney.

"It was a big gig for a young company, we recruited new staff and the workshop was so full of people we had to set up extra tables! As Star Wars fans, it was incredibly exciting.

"As well as the Naboo soldiers, we made Jawa eye headsets, costume elements for Gragra, the gorg seller at Mos Espa, and jackets for some Nikto characters.

Illustrations by Ian McCaig

"And then we got a request; could you make this, too? We were handed a sketch hand-drawn by George Lucas. That sketch turned out to be of Anakin Skywalker’s Podracer helmet, one of the best-known costume pieces we’ve ever worked on.

"More detailed drawings followed and we were given a couple of weeks to figure out the best way to make it. We started by creating a vacuum-formed outer skin and ear covers, layering them over an EPS liner taken from a bike helmet to ensure a good fit for Jake (Lloyd, who played Anakin). The goggles were modified welding goggles with a metal bar resting flush to the helmet - we also added a spring-loaded sliding mechanism so Anakin could flip them down before the race.

Pattern pieces for the Podracer helmet's leather hood

"The bespoke leather pieces for the cowl were made by Stephen Kill, who was overseeing the leatherwork for the Naboo soldiers.

"With the paint scheme, we wanted something in keeping with the distinctive Star Wars palette, colourful but muted, and inspiration came from the chipped dark red and green of Boba Fett’s starship. We applied a layer of wax before the top coat of paint, then scratched back in the wax to give the appearance of paint chips. We still use that method now, this was one of the first times we’d tried it and still think of it as a Star Wars-inspired technique.

"There were only two Podracer helmets made, everything came together in time and we were really pleased with them. But we had no idea until the movie came out, and images of Anakin wearing the Podracer helmet were absolutely everywhere, quite how famous that helmet would become.

"It remains one of the most recognisable pieces we’ve been part of - and it wasn’t the last time we’d get the chance to make an iconic helmet for that character. In 2021, we worked with costume designer Suttirat Larlarb on the Darth Vader costume for Obi-Wan Kenobi and created a one-off battle damaged helmet for the ferocious duel between Vader and Obi-Wan, 23 years after their first fateful meeting in The Phantom Menace."

With thanks to Lucasfilm, Trisha Biggar and Michael Mooney for their help and memories!


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