Vader’s finest are on the march around the UK. SFX Blogger John Cooper interviews a Stormtrooper called Richard
I’m on the road providing support for the One Man Star Wars show as it travels the UK on its Spring tour. One of the mainstays of the tour is Richard. Richard is a Stormtrooper, or more specifically a stormtrooper “wrangler” gathering a team of imperials at each event to meet, greet, and interrogate the audience as they walk in to the show, much like they did at the SFX weekender. I sat down with him for a chat.
John: Hi Richard, how long have you been an event Stormtrooper?
Richard: I started doing this in 2005 so I’ve been a Stormtrooper now for six years – gosh, is it really that long? – but yes, and I’ve been supporting the One Man Star Wars show with a club called the Galactic Knights since it came over here in 2006.
John: I know a fair bit about Star Wars , but I understand your trooper has a specific designation; what's your full rank?
Richard: Well, as I say when asked, my rank is classified, but my designation is TK4721. All troopers are known by their designations (operating numbers) in homage to the film where they say “tk421, why aren’t you at your post?” It all helps add to the experience and keep up the illusion.
John: Your costume is pretty hardcore; it even has the voice modulator so you sound like the real deal. How does someone go about becoming an official stormtrooper, or biker scout, or Vader for that matter?
Richard: Well thank you, we do try to be the character rather than just a guy (or girl) in a suit and always aim to be as movie accurate as we can. That is to say to look and sound as if we’ve just walked off the set of the movie. There are a number of clubs around the country whose members can point you in the right direction. I am a member of several, but to be an “official” stormtrooper in the UK and be given an official TK Number you have to be a member of the UK Garrison, which is the UK outpost of the 501st which is itself an international club for lovers of Star Wars costumes.
John: For the tour, you’ve been organising stormtroopers and other characters to appear at each date, so you’re a bit like Jim Phelps from Mission Impossible picking his operatives. Are there a lot of people you can choose from, or is it pretty specialised?
Richard: Sometimes it has felt like an impossible task, but I’ve been very lucky that in the UK we have lots of people who share this hobby, and who are spread far and wide over the UK, from all sorts of backgrounds. You could say it has universal appeal. So for the most part it’s not been a big problem. It is very specialised though, as the costumes take a lot of effort to build and maintain.
John: Can you make a living out of being a Stormtrooper?
Richard: No, we don’t get paid; we all do it as a hobby. Any money we raise from our appearances at events is donated to charity, which is something we’re very proud of. Its great to be able to help people at the same time as we’re having fun. How many hobbies can say that!
John: Have you ever had any hitches? Like two Darth Vaders turn up and no troopers, or something like that?
Richard: That really would be bad, wouldn’t it? As I mentioned earlier, we’re spread over the UK, so naturally we exist on the internet. When arranging events, we ask our members to sign up to them in advance so we know who will be going to each one ahead of time so can avoid duplicating costumes like Darth Vader, Boba Fett etc. But until people arrive, you can never be sure.
John: You must take a lot of pride in your work. I notice in the more recent Star Wars merchandise the troopers have a lot more accessories and markings. Is there anything you don't have that you want to add to your own costume?
Richard: I absolutely love it! And to be honest, the pull of being a stormtrooper for me is that we’re all the same, the uniformity of the costume is what makes it so good. When I am at big events, and you see 20 troopers walking past in formation, it’s an amazing sight so no, we don’t add extra markings to the costume as that would spoil the effect.
John: Apart from Stormtroopers and of course Darth Vader, are there any other costumes that people wear for events?
Richard: Oh yes, I should think that someone somewhere has done just about every costume you can think of. As well as Troopers and Vader, we also have Biker Scouts, Royal Guards, Imperial Officers, Bounty Hunters, TIE Fighter pilots to name but a few. You name it, someone has probably done it!
John: Thanks for your time Richard.
Richard: You're welcome. Now, move along.