Amid the topics of copyright ownership, enforcement of a U.S. judgment in the UK, determination of “works of art”, and other issues as featured in mainstream media reports about the ongoing legal battle between Lucasfilm LTD (LFL) and Andrew Ainsworth and his Shepperton Design Studios (SDS), what has not garnered as much focus is the debate over which artist originally sculpted the iconic stormtrooper helmet design that was adopted for use in Star Wars: A New Hope and the films that followed.
While this was touched on in previous legal proceedings, two principals involved in the production – Andrew Ainsworth and Brian Muir – have opposing accounts of how the famous helmet was first produced in three dimensional form, based on Ralph McQuarrie’s conceptual illustrations.
While the legal battle between the two companies moved to the UK Supreme Court earlier this month (see UK Mainstream Media Report on Lucasfilm vs. Ainsworth Star Wars Stormtrooper Helmet Copyright Lawsuit on Eve of Supreme Court Case), the public debate and controversy over who created the original sculpt of the famous helmet continues not only on the Replica Prop Forum (The RPF) fan/hobbyist website, but also on the much more mainstream and ubiquitous Facebook.
This is a topic previously covered in an Original Prop Blog article published in June 2008 (see Star Wars “Prototype” Stormtrooper Helmets), which referenced external articles as well as the prior court cases, and the now oft referenced historical photo depicting George Lucas in the presence of two competing Stormtrooper helmet sculpts circa 1976:
Today, visiting two Pages/Groups on Facebook by principals of the opposing claims reveals additional information, perspectives, and insights.
The first page is the official Facebook Product/Service Page for Andrew Ainsworth’s “Original Stormtrooper” (facebook.com/OriginalStormtrooper), as promoted on his rebranded retail website, www.originalstormtrooper.com.
The Page is described as follows:
Originalstormtrooper.com is the new online shop for Andrew Ainsworth of Shepperton Design Studios. Andrew is the original maker of the Stormtroopers and other props for the first Star Wars film in 1976 and continues to offer high quality production of these characters today.
Andrew went on to work on many other films, Alien, Superman,Outland, Flash Gordon etc etc.
See new images and information on the site on all of these.
Genuine. Authentic. Quality.
`We don`t make replicas, we make the real thing ….`
Stormtrooper helmets and armour, Shadow trooper helmets and armour, Imperial and Rebel troops, X-Wing Tie Pilot helmets, accurate E11 Blasters and more
The second page is the official Facebook Fine Arts Group for Liz Moore and Brian Muir, “THE DARKSIDE OF SDS aka www.originalstormtrooper.com” (facebook.com/group.php?gid=367062635069); more about Brian Muir can be found on the website about his work in the film industry at www.brianmuirvadersculptor.com.
The Group is described as follows:
Give credit to the talented artists Liz Moore and Brian Muir who sculpted the Original Stormtrooper helmet and armour for Star Wars- A New Hope
Please join this group as a mark of respect to Brian Muir and the late Liz Moore. Between them they were responsible for sculpting the iconic characters in Star Wars A New Hope. Brian created Darth Vader, Original Stormtrooper armour, Death Star Droid and CZ3. Liz created C3P0 and the Original Stormtrooper helmet.
In addition to the UK Supreme Court case making international news via mainstream media outlets, adding fuel to the debate is the recent (re)publication of the famous photo above by Ainsworth on his official retail website, on a newly published page entitled “The Court Decides“, which has reignited the controversy. Some allege that this is a “retouched” version of the original photo, altered so as to make the adopted sculpt appear red, and the abandoned design comparatively grey in color.
As a matter of disclosure, I was contacted by a third party in early December 2010, directing me to this newly published “The Court Decides” page on the Original Stormtrooper website, requesting that I update my June 2008 article linked to above by changing the credit for the sculpt from the late Liz Moore to Nick Pemberton, “next door neighbour and colleague, and friend of Andrew Ainsworth at the time“.
“The Court Decides” page published Ainsworth’s case for his position that the original Stormtrooper sculpt was made by Nick Pemberton – not Liz Moore:
Lucas chooses his Stormtrooper
On 20 January 1976, Nick Pemberton, local scenic artist and colleague of Andrew Ainsworth, went to the Studios and presented Lucas with a red clay helmet mock-up. The film studio’s Liz Moore produced one made in grey clay. While Lucas was considering the red and the grey clay mock-ups, Nick was taken on a guided tour of the Studios’ Art Department. Nick observed some further grey clay sculpting being done on the armour. John Barry (Art Director) told Nick that they were at a bit of a loss as to how to make the armour. Nick suggested that he knew someone who might be able to help. (Andrew!). After considering the clay sculptures, Lucas chose Red – the direction of Nick’s efforts and the Studios’ effort was abandoned.
Below is the newly published version of the critical photo, as found on the originalstormtrooper.com website today (TOP) and the full photo as it was provided to me and published in June 2008:
However, I was also provided with a second, higher resolution photo of the selected sculpt at the time, and that photo was darker in color, similar to the photo now employed on the Ainsworth website (and also published on the Original Prop Blog in 2008):
“The Court Decides” article continues:
Red clay sculpture identified
Skip forward 32 years to Lucasfilm claiming in court that the red helmet was made at the Studios by Liz Moore and hence all copyright belonged to Lucas. (Andrew knew that Nick always used red clay as it was cheaper…the Studios’ art department always demanded the best fine grey clay!) In court, in a short dramatic court statement by Liz Moore’s boyfriend (John Richardson), it was established that Liz Moore only ever used grey clay. Lucas’ claim was totally dismissed.
Ainsworth further cites the following from the court transcript excerpts from the 2008 proceeding:
4 Cross-examination by MR WILSON
5 MR WILSON: Mr Richardson, you say you recall Liz working on
6 two sculptures in particular for the Star Wars film.
7 A. Yes.
8 Q. Did you visit her on the lot and see her doing it?
9 A. I did, yes.
10 Q. So you saw her sculpting the C-3PO?
11 A. I did indeed.
12 Q. Can you remember what sort of clay she used for doing
14 A. Grey.
15 Q. Can you remember what clay she used for the Stormtrooper
17 A. She always used grey clay. Everything I ever saw her
18 model was in grey clay.
19 MR WILSON: Thank you very much, Mr Richardson.
20 MR BLOCH: I have no re-examination, my Lord.
21 MR JUSTICE MANN: Thank you, Mr Richardson. You may think
22 your journey was hardly necessary but thank you very
23 much for coming.
24 A. Thank you for dealing with me, sir.
25 MR JUSTICE MANN: Right.
However, in reviewing photos of Liz Moore and her work on “The Darkside of SDS” Facebook page, one of the sculpts made by Liz Moore for another film, 2001: A Space Odyssey (of the star child), is clearly more red in tone, not grey, which would rebut the statements of the individual that provided testimony based on his recollections from the mid-70s:
In comparing the photo of the 2001 sculpt with both versions of the 1976 photo of Lucas with the Stormtrooper sculpts, it would appear that the coloring of the clay material used for the 2001 sculpt could be consistent with the coloring of the clay material used in the the chosen Stormtrooper sculpt in either version of the photo (“red” or otherwise):
Coupled with the notion that identification of the original artist in the 2008 trial appeared to have been outside the scope of the case, it would seem that the position articulated on “The Court Decides” page is not conclusive, but highly speculative.
Additionally, Brian Muir published his own rebuttal to Andrew Ainsworth’s “The Court Decides” article. This can be found on the RPF. Entitled, “Just the Facts“, in the opening post, Muir publishes an account of the origins of the key photo, along with a photo of himself sculpting the Death Star Droid head (with his original sculpt of the Darth Vader helmet in the background) in what he claims is the same type of clay used by Liz Moore to sculpt the Stormtrooper helmet (for which he sculpted the accompanying armor pieces):
Muir states in his initial post:
As the colour of the clay sculpt of the Stormtrooper helmet was not discussed in depth in the Lucasfilm vs Ainsworth court case, I feel that the facts should be revealed. Ainsworth has now re -written his version of events for the 6th time (5 amended statements being presented as the truth was produced) using the true facts that I put forward in my one and only statement. He has not only changed the facts as they happened but has changed his website from Shepperton Design Studios to www.OriginalStormtrooper.com
No-one knew about the clay helmet that had been sculpted for the production until I informed Lucasfilm lawyers of its existence. After searching through their Archives a photo was found in the Gary Kurtz Archive. The clay helmet I saw outside the Art Department was the same colour as the clay that Liz and I were using on the film.
Ainsworth is now using a colour distorted photo of the clay helmet to try to show it as terracotta as Pemberton (who was incorrectly credited for sculpting the helmet) said he only worked with terracotta as it is cheap.
Again Ainsworth is trying to cheat Liz Moore out of the credit she so richly deserves for sculpting the helmet.
Photo of me in 1976 using the same clay to sculpt the Death Star Droid as Liz Moore used to sculpt the Stormtrooper helmet
The Replica Prop Forum discussion continues on for 412 independent posts by various members, as of 03/13/11.
Pertinent to these issues are the statements published by Mr. Justice Mann in his High Court ruling in 2008 with his conclusions regarding the veracity of Mr. Ainsworth’s recollections, claims, and assertions, excerpts of which can be found in a previous Original Prop Blog article (see Star Wars “Prototype” Stormtrooper Helmets Update: High Court Ruling Excerpts on LFL v. SDS Case).
Returning to the Facebook pages, while the “Wall” of the Ainsworth page is generally made of content about the sale of his unlicensed Star Wars replica props and costumes, there is a debate between he and some of his detractors on the “Discussions” tab under a topic entitled “Red Clay stormtrooper“. This was first published, per Facebook, “about 3 months ago“, which is approximately the same time I was contacted by a third party requesting that I alter my 2008 article, changing credit for the sculpt of the chosen Stormtrooper helmet from the late Liz Moore to Nick Pemberton, making it consistent with Ainsworth’s recent accounting of the mid-’70s events.
With this discussion, the Administrator of the page, “Original Stormtrooper” (presumably Andrew Ainsworth), initiates and invites questions on the highly controversial topic:
If anyone is interested, please feel free to ask any questions releating to the red clay prototype Stormtrooper featured in the picture with Lucas in www.originalstormtrooper.com – our story – Lucas choses his stormtrooper – the court decides.
Apparently, the first question posted was deleted, as “Original Stormtrooper” responds to a now non-existent question from “matt”.
To Ainsworth’s credit, it appears that none of the subsequent posts by fellow Facebook members were subsequently deleted, in that a majority of them are challenges to Ainsworth’s own accounts, claims, and statements.
As noted above, again a claim is published that the key photo of the two initial Stormtrooper sculpts were “colour manipulated” to make the chosen one appear more red than grey.
One interesting observation introduced by a participant in the discussion is that “Nick Pemberton stated in court that his concept included a part from a Morris Minor automobile, to ‘make it more British’“, and included photographs of the two helmets from the key photo along with a rendering of the Morris Minor ashtray part (seen in middle below), which resembles the chin piece below the frown seen in the design sculpt that was abandoned (seen on left below):
Between the two Facebook pages and the RPF discussions, there is a wealth of both facts and opinions with regards to who actually sculpted the original Stormtrooper helmet.
Unfortunately, Liz Moore is no longer with us to provide her own first hand accounting of her work on Star Wars: A New Hope. However, it is encouraging to witness so many efforts made to recognize her for the art that she produced for this and other films. While many in the industry as well as fans have no doubts that she indeed was the artist responsible for realizing McQuarrie’s design in real form, I am hopeful that additional confirmation will materialize in some form in the future, perhaps as a positive result of this ongoing controversy.
As I was asked to revisit this material and alter the content previously published on this website, I reviewed the new information and claims with an open mind. In any event, based on information available today, the article published on the Original Prop Blog in June 2008 will remain as published at the time, as that appears to be the correct accounting and attribution of work on the film.
As my reporting has been challenged on the matter, I believe it is appropriate to outline my own personal assessment of the controversy to support my reporting of the debate in 2008. The most compelling facts supporting the position that Liz Moore sculpted the original Stormtrooper helmet is the first hand testimony and recollections of Brian Muir, who directly and personally worked with Moore on the Stormtrooper, knew the materials used, recognizes her work, and in recent years recalled the existence of the critical photo then found by LFL lawyers and introduced as evidence in the legal proceedings. Additionally, Justice Mann published a very unfavorable review of Andrew Ainsworth’s credibility on these matters, Ainsworth’s version of events is constructed out of second-hand information and speculation, and the “red vs. grey” argument is not compelling for a variety of reasons. Should additional material information come to light, I am happy to revisit the topic.
In closing, the Brian Muir Facebook Group page includes material which celebrates the work of Liz Moore, some of which is shared below (originally published on the RPF as well – see Star Wars sculptor Liz Moore – film footage found):
The artist – Liz Moore:
Below is a link to a video from www.britishpathe.com of Liz Moore sculpting The Beatles circa 1966 – “…working from photographs, 21-year old Liz modeled the pop idols into 3D likenesses…” :
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