In the original Star Wars trilogy, Stormtroopers were meat. Sorry, they were. They were dispensable laser fodder for our heroes to wade through as they fought for freedom against the oppression of the Empire that was embodied by soulless, white armor-clad imbeciles.
But in 2015, that changed. In the first half hour or so of “The Force Awakens,” we meet a HUMAN Stormtrooper. Bereft of familial memory and pressed into service more or less as a slave, FN-2187, known as Finn, was a Stormtrooper who removed the helmet and became a person. That got us thinking, though—what was it like to be a Stormtrooper? Not in the film universe, of course, we knew that would suck. But what was it like to don the armor and become an immortal part of science fiction history?
So, we found a real Stormtrooper.
Ralph Morse is an English actor who got a call from his agent back in the late ’70s for a little movie called “The Empire Strikes Back.” They needed extras, and Morse answered the call and donned the armor. He’s the Stormtrooper holding his blaster Old West shotgun-style behind Vader in the Cloud City walking scene, and he went on to get drafted for “Return of the Jedi” as well.
According to Morse, being a Stormtrooper, while an awesome resume piece, was about as fun as being one in-universe. First off, that armor was one-size-fits-all—and designed to fit someone around 5’10”. If you were taller or shorter than that, good luck, and prepare for some major discomfort.
But it didn’t stop there. The leg plates for the armor really nailed the stiff, regimented look needed for the Empire’s soldiers, but it also meant you couldn’t really sit down while in costume. And if you can’t sit in the suit, imagine having to use the bathroom … yeah. Morse says you had to give a 30-second warning if you even thought a restroom trip was coming.
Add all that to the fact that you couldn’t really see out of the helmet (the eye holes look intimidating but are super not-suited for actual eye width) and the boots had no soles to keep from slipping (“I don’t know a Stormtrooper who at some point hasn’t fallen over,” Morse says), and the plight of the Imperial soldier starts coming into focus.
So here’s some sympathy for the common Stormtrooper, thanks to Morse. The inability to shoot straight, stay on their feet, or even relieve themselves makes their incompetence somewhat more understandable. Sorry, dudes. I guess being the completely disposable bad guys in the most popular sci-fi/fantasy epic in American history wasn’t bad enough.
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