We recently had the opportunity to gather four of the best Boba Fett cosplayers in the business together to have a roundtable discussion about their experiences in the world of movie-quality Star Wars costuming.
BFFC: Gentlemen, thank you for joining us today. Creating your own "canon" Boba Fett costume is a gigantic endeavor to undertake but the four of you have accomplished this goal, each in your own way, and the results are incredible! Let's talk shop, shall we? First please tell us your name and your online username/handle.
Austin Polifka: I'm Austin and my name on the Dent and Mandalorian Mercs/501st is "BobaFiend".
Scott Chana: I'm Scott ("Jimmy BufFETT" on BFFC/TDH/Mercs).
Rick Ponte: I'm Rick. My name on The Dented Helmet is "Ponte" (very creative, I know).
Scott Kaufmann: If you think that's creative Rick, just wait till you hear mine! I'm Scott and my TDH board name is "Scott Kaufmann". I used to go by "TxFett" on the Boba Fett Fan Club since I couldn't think of a good name. I changed it once I took over TDH.
BFFC: How long have you all been involved in Boba Fett costuming and what was your first costume?
AP: I started in late 2009, and ESB (Empire Strikes Back) Fett was my first costume ever. I went to Dragon Con and was astounded by all the costumes. I immediately said "this [hobby] is for me" and the journey began. It's a hard costume to start out with but I learned a ton reading threads on TDH and making lots and lots of (expensive) mistakes.
RP: Well, I started looking at The Dented Helmet in December of 2006 (a month before I went into the Army) and was figuring out where to start. I had no idea there were so many versions, but after about three years of WWII reenacting I wanted to move on to one of my favorite characters in science fiction. It's now 2013, and I'm still perfecting my Return of the Jedi Special Edition, my first (and probably only) Boba costume.
SK: I've wanted to be like Boba Fett since I was about three or four. Celebration II was when the bug really hit after seeing all of the people in costume and seeing that it could happen. I'd say that I've been involved with Fett costuming since around 2006. That's when I really got serious about pursuing the dream and started work on my Special Edition Boba Fett.
SC: My first Fett costume was a RoTJ SE (Return of the Jedi Special Edition) Boba. I was not too thrilled. Eight versions later I was satisfied. I now have a Kamino Jango and a Holiday Special Boba as well.
BFFC: Looking back, were you happy with how your first costumes turned out?
SC: If I look back on version one now, I think I rushed things. I just wanted it done and didn't want to miss a troop due it being in the works.
SK: I loved my first costume. I wore it every day from doors open to close at Celebration IV which was when I first wore it. It's hard to describe that first feeling of seeing yourself in the mirror while putting the helmet on. I still get it to an extent every time I put the helmet on. I loved that first setup even though I had quite a few malfunctions throughout the convention. I was really critical of the suit and knew that things needed to be fixed but I was just happy to be in that armor at the time.
AP: I too spent 12 hour days in Fett at the first convention I got to wear the whole thing to: Celebration VI in Orlando. It's a really cool feeling at a convention like that in that kind of costume you just feel like a rockstar all day.
SK: The world of Fett costuming is constantly evolving as more and more things are discovered about the original suits. Hence why I have a closet full of Fett-related items, many of which are different versions of a [single] piece.
AP: First costumes are always rough. Years later, looking back at my first build, the materials and methods I used are laughable but you also have the feeling of pride that goes along with building something from scratch for the first time and creating one of your favorite characters. Almost every original part I have I would like to upgrade some day for one reason or another, but they all hold a special place in my heart. I remember the old tutorial I used and the hours gluing and sanding, or that veteran member who helped me out with the project even though I was an ignorant newbie, or that one costume part I was able to finally find for a bargain in the Cargo Hold. They're all special.
RP: The first time I wore my Boba was a quick run around the neighborhood with my buddy's kids. I had a completed helmet, armor, flak vest, boots, and flightsuit with cardboard gauntlets, Home Depot knee pads, no jetpack, and shoddy gloves that I dyed and hot-glued white patches on. Few have ever seen photos of that, and I intend on keeping it that way! My first event I had a complete costume was Celebration V (which is actually where I met a lot of you guys for the first time). I was happy with it at the time, especially getting Jeremy Bulloch to sign the inside. When I got everything on for the first time, I put on that helmet and it just felt...unreal. To go around the convention in 'sentry mode', head on a swivel, acting the part and having fans go nuts is something I'll never forget. That suit has evolved a great deal since then; armor has been upgraded to more accurate molds, more accurately painted. The flightsuit, flak vest, etc. have been tailored more.
BFFC: In your opinion, what is the most expensive and/or complicated part(s) of a Boba Fett costume?
SC: In my opinion, the most expensive piece is the jetpack. The most complicated is the helmet. Anybody who has seen that knows how many electronics are in there!
SL: I would have to agree with Scott, it tends to be a toss up between the jetpack and the armor on both points in my opinion.
AP: Easily I would say the helmet is the most complicated. There are a ton of makers and everyone just keeps getting better and better over the years. Recently the ESB helmet has even been cast by eFX, and of course with a screen accurate helmet there comes the screen accurate paint job. You can spend hours and hours pouring over screen grabs and exhibit photos of the helmet damage. There are different versions of this as well, from the screen, to the museum shots, to the Lucas archive. veryone wants their helmet just so. It really is the centerpiece of the costume.
RP: I'd say hands down the jetpack if going the RoTJ SE route, and going by the "Art of Star Wars" exhibit photos. Not only is a baseline price for the pack around $300-$350, but the paint job on it is a nightmare. I wanted every detail on it perfectly represented, even the scuffs and markings that were clearly from Lucas employees mishandling (see: dropping) the pack. Also, that thing has so many levels, surfaces, and ridges, trying to trace the damage from the exhibit stills and transfer it to those surfaces piece by piece is a nightmare!
AP: I can see that for the Jango Kamino pack or the RoTJ Boba, but it wasn't so bad for ESB. That and there are only five or so decent photos of it and even those are grainy.
SK: Every Fett costumer is all too familiar with pouring over photos trying to get whichever look they are pursuing 'down'.
BFFC: Which kind of helmets do you wear with your current kits?
SC: I have a BobaMaker bucket and jetpack.
RP: I'm currently wearing a Fettpride (FPH) helmet, although I'm looking to get my new FPH2 painted up for Dragon Con next year.
AP: I'm currently wearing a FettPride Budget Coldcast Boba, cast by Asok. I'm also waiting on my FPH2, Rick.
SK: There are some things in the works but until then I'm still rocking my good old Sgt. Fang Mystery Helmet. The sizing on it is excellent and it has a good look proportionally on me.
BFFC: What materials do you prefer for the armor parts? Which materials do you think work really well and what are some you think people should avoid?
SC: Avoid vac-u-form! Especially if you are big. I strongly recommend fiberglass for Fett costuming. Every time I've used vacu-form, it cracks!
SK: For the helmet, I would have to say fiberglass, for the accuracy as well as the durability. My resin [helmet] took a nasty spill once after a kid dropped it after picking it up behind my back. Plastic for the armor all the way. It's accurate and I think it sits better than heavier armors like fiberglass.
AP: It all depends on the part for me really, each part works best in a specific medium. Armor parts normally work well in ABS because it is flexible and durable, and can be pulled without losing too much detail. For helmets and jetpacks I prefer resin. Fiberglass can be nice but it is a pain to work with because it gets everywhere and is really itchy. If you're casting with fiberglass it also uses polyester resin with is much more toxic than smooth-on urethane resin.
RP: For the helmet, definitely fiberglass lined/resin outer. For the armor I prefer vac-u-formed (which is all Fettpride as well) because it's very flexible and won't shatter when you drop it and it's also what they used for the actual movies.
SC: By time I repaired my vac-u-formed armor five times, it was heavier than resin. All of my hard armor is fiberglass and is from BobaMaker. It has withstood seven years of trooping.
BFFC: What's interesting about your responses is while a costume may look (nearly) the same, it's likely completely different materials for everything between each costumer.
SK: That's the great thing about looking at different Boba costumes.
RP: Yup, that might include paint types, application methods, etc.
AP: RedKraytDragon also pulls armor in "Boltaron" which is very flexible. It has even more flex than ABS. He took some shots of running it over in his driveway, pretty convincing! That's what my chest armor is. It's always a treat for me to see the expensive or new stuff that I don't have!
SK: A typical question for a Fett to ask another Fett is "what/who are you wearing?"
BFFC: Like a red carpet celebrity, but with armor! What were some of your biggest issues you came across when construcing your costumes?
RP: Well, I can't count 'time required' as an issue since it has to be done, but for me personally it was learning the craft of airbrushing. Even more so: properly mixing paint-thinner ratios. I've ruined many'a'coats of paint on my old armor spraying either liquidy-mess or sandpaper-textured layers.
SC: The hardest part of my costume was the Hyperdyne electronics. If one fragile component fails, the whole system dies.
SK: Getting the armor to sit right definitely springs to mind. You have to make sure that the spacing of your armor plates on the chest looks right. On top of that is picking a method to use when attaching your plates to the vest.
RP: I didn't even think about that. Yeah, armor placement is a big issue too, especially when trying to mimic the exact spacing the screen-used costumes display. I used heavy duty snaps for my chest armor and one [incorrect] measurement after hammering that snap in and you're out of luck. That venture alone took two days.
AP: My biggest issue was figuring out a jetpack harness system that worked well with my scratchbuilt sintra armor. There are a lot of parts involved that have to all work together and when you're building with limited experience it can get hairy. For instance, the jetpack harness has to go over the flightsuit, through holes in the vest, holes in the backplate, and then hook into your jetpack hooks. The way my armor was built my collar would end up strangling me as the jetpack sagged back over time.
SK: I can see that as well Austin. My BobaMaker harness I had on my first Boba did the same to me.
SC: Same here. I still use a BobaMaker harness on my Jango. Same issue.
SK: I'm happy that your BM armor has lasted you so long Scott. My first SE Boba used BobaMaker armor and while the armor survives, the jetpack and knees failed on day one.
BFFC: TK (Stormtrooper) armor is notorious for armor bites. Are there any parts of your costumes that are just going to leave marks or hurt every time you put it on, no matter how many times you try and upgrade or improve that piece?
SC: Because I have an injury to my spine, the jetpack hurts to wear for too long. I've had the same boots since I started and the soles are worn out, so it's tough to walk in those, but by far, the bucket hurts the most and it's my own fault. The servo motor pushes against my head and cuts circulation.
RP: The harness, hands down. It's the Mojo/Gino harness (v3), and I can't imagine Jeremy Bulloch had a pleasant time wearing that either. It's straight metal to back, with a hunk of fiberglass hanging from it (the jetpack). Strains my back most of the day wearing it.
SK: I can't say that I've ever had any pains or marks from wearing my Fett even after a few days wearing the jetpack around. I still say that it is one of the most comfortable to wear costumes for me. I can move freely for the most part in it. Heck I've driven in my armor on several occasions, minus the helmet of course. You have to watch how the codpiece is when you sit though. That can smart.
RP: Yea, codpiece isn't too forgiving.
AP: I always get armor bites in my wrists from the turned over edge of ABS. I have hot glue inside the gauntlet edge to taper it, and wear my flightsuit sleeves and gloves in between but there is always pressure there because of the way I hold my EE-3 (like Jeremy held it) that always leads to armor bites there. I've also fixed it now but my collar used to choke me so much that my neckseal would have green paint on it at the end of the day.
SK: I think that your armor had it in for you Austin.
RP: I don't know about the rest of you, but can I just say that I must have someone watching over me to have never had the 'Oh man, I really have to use the bathroom right now' moments?
SK: Same here! I haven't had that fear come to life.
SC: If I have to go, I am going to! It only takes ten minutes to get out of costume.
AP: My body is always just like: 'You're Boba Fett today, and Boba Fett doesn't use the bathroom'.
SK: That's a good mantra Austin. I'm going to use that from now on.
BFFC: What suggestions would you make or questions would you ask to the team that built the movie version of the Fett costume in the late 70's?
AP: If I could ask one question of the original team, it would be "what are the keyslots on the helmet made of?" People have been looking for that 'found part' for so long and still no dice.
BFFC: Aren't those from the bank ticker counter thing?
SK: Yes but nobody has been able to find one that is the correct number or dimensions just yet.
AP: There are leads for that, and some radio equipment but no positive ID yet.
RP: I think if I'd suggest they use a soft harness for the wearer. Not only does it prevent back strain, but it HAS to make stunts more fluid and manageable. As far as what I'd ask them, I've always wanted to know maybe some of the more specific painting and weathering methods they used to give my costume that just more of an accurate representation.
SK: Topical, Rick, lot's of topical.
SC: My biggest suggestion: make it easy for stuff to be attached and sit straight. And yes, a second zipper to use the bathroom!
AP: I would also suggest they go back to the drawing board with the knee design because they make absolutely no sense. The biggest problem section for flex is also the weakest and slimmest part of the knee. All four of those joints have broken on mine at one point or another and [had to be] repaired.
SK: I completely agree with Austin about the knees! Weak knees are the bane of Fett costuming, though there are ways to extend the life of your knees by reinforcing them.
BFFC: The costume obviously changed a lot between ESB and RoTJ. Maybe not to the casual fan, but we all know the differences. How much do you think it will change in the new movies if they #BringBackBoba?
AP: That's a good question. I think there will either only be a mishmash of old parts (like EBS flamethrower on RoTJ gauntlets), or that they will just use the original as inspiration and do a total overhaul.
SC: Complete overhaul. All will change.
SK: Rick and I were just talking about the Boba suit for the new movies a few days ago. I wonder if they will do a overhaul with a new loadout and armor, or if they will at first go with a heavily weathered post sarlaac version.
RP: Yeah, Scott K and I decided it'll go one of two ways, or it'll go a third way which a lot of us should be dreading. 1) They'll use the original screen-used parts from the previous movies, 2) they'll create a completely new set of armor, newly painted but using the old paint-up style as a sort of 'throwback' and familiarity, or worst of all, 3) they'll 'reboot' Boba and try to modernize and stylize him in a way that is completely unrelated to the original Star Wars style and theme we all know and love. It'll have a lot of silver, sleek lines, and most likely, that octagonal-print fabric that every sci-fi movie uses.
SK: Oh they definitely will be making a whole new suit. They won't be using anything original. They'll use the original stuff as a basis but no item from the original screen used suits will see screen time in the new films.
BFFC: What parts or features do you think they will keep?
SC: They can't change much about the bucket.
AP: I think the colors will stay the same. They are iconic and have been marked for too long to change honestly.
SK: The colors will stay the same, he may be more kitted out. [J.J.] Abrams is a fan and I don't see him allowing anything to drastic.
AP: I can see something with a big loadout like the Mythos Fett. That I could be okay with, so long as it keeps the Western vibe.
RP: Exactly, Austin. They need to keep in line with Fett's true design: Clint Eastwood/Western.
BFFC: What is the biggest disaster you've ever had in armor?
SC: I put a battery in the wrong way into a battery pack. [It] almost started a fire. There was smoke coming out of the pocket.
RP: Well, I did have the scope on my blaster break within the first couple minutes of trooping.
SK: Yeah, that was my bad.
RP: The look of pure horror and embarrassment on your face was amazing. "I just met this guy two minutes ago and already snapped his scope off." We've been best friends ever since.
SK: A fellow TDH member was giving me a ride in his car while we were in armor on our way back to my hotel at Celebration IV. We passed Thomas Spanos in his Durge trudging down the sidewalk. My friend decides to whip his Mazda Speed around to see if Thomas needed a ride (which there is no way he would fit or even sit in that car). I just remember slamming into the door and hearing my kneepad snap.
AP: At Celebration VI I was waiting in line for the Mark Hamill panel. It was the end of the day and everyone was tired. I had been wearing the costume all day and was sick of waiting in this crazy line. We were about an hour into the wait when a guy a few rows over passed out and everyone was kind of freaking out. Well me, being a lifeguard for five years at the time, rushed over through the crowd to get to him, breaking my knees and jetpack rocket in the process. I'm just glad I didn't have to give CPR in this costume because that would have been a nightmare. He ended up being okay and just had low blood sugar and dehydration from not eating all day.
SK: Way to go Austin. A real Mandalorian hero!
AP: Wow Austin, that's a legit way to break your stuff, compared to my 'socially-oblivious lady smashes her purse into my jetpack thruster' story.
BFFC: That certainly is memorable! On the flip side, what about your favorite moments in costume?
AP: I think one of my favorites was the [Mandalorian] Mercs' "Bounty Hunt" fundraiser at ConCarolinas. We had someone bring a whole gang of us up to their hotel room and she let us in, unannounced, to take our unknowing targets down to our jail cell. It was pretty hilarious to do a 'bust' in armor for people who had no idea what was happening. I also got to ride on the field at the Atlanta Braves stadium hanging out the side of a Mini Cooper in costume. That was pretty memorable- and also terrifying I thought I was going to tumble out and break my whole costume apart.
SC: Oh boy, April 2008, I met Jeremy Bulloch in costume and was there when he got his [costume].
RP: Two equally special moments: taking a picture with Jeremy Bulloch in costume, with him taking my blaster and aiming it at me. Got an awesome picture of that. The other more important moment was when I got down on one knee (which survived without a scratch) at this past Dragon Con and proposed to my girlfriend.
SK: She said yes!
BFFC: How incredible of a guy is Jeremy too? I mean what a treat it is for fans that he is so gracious and kind.
RP: Such a nice man! And he's all about the Boba Fett scene. Very rare these days for celebrities to be as involved/proud of their previous work in a convention/fan aspect.
SK: I'll never forget Jeremy photobombing me while posing in my Boba at Celebration IV. He was mimicking my poses and then leaned over and said "that's the best Boba I have ever seen." Then he realized who it was inside [the other costume] and we just chatted it up while posing for pictures.
AP: I've still not had the chance to meet him. It's on my 'bucket list'.
SK: I see what you did there!
BFFC: Do you think we will see Daniel Logan wearing the costume in any stand-alone Boba prequel films, or Temuera Morrison beneath the helmet for the sequel trilogy?
RP: I doubt it.
AP: We shall see.
SK: I agree with them most likely using Tem for any helmet off shots. I, however, honestly hope that they never have Boba remove his helmet, especially for the spinoff. They need to do it like they did in "Dredd": The helmet never gets removed throughout the entire movie.
SC: If we see Logan, I'll be surprised. I don't know if he has aged enough yet.
BFFC: Finally, what advice or suggestions would you give to someone working on a Fett costume for the first time?
SC: My advice would be to plan out a lot of time and don't expect to get everything right the first time. Things will fall off, crack, and not sit straight. Once it is ready to troop, pose in front of a mirror, it is the best cure for 'limbo Fett'.
SK: Take your time and stick with it. Nobody's suit is perfect the first time. It can be overwhelming but that's what The Dented Helmet and Boba Fett Fan Club are for. They are support groups as much as information resources. Another thing to keep in mind is to always remember to have fun!
AP: Read, read, read. There is a wealth of knowledge on the TD and BFFC along with people who are just as passionate (if not more so) about everything Fett. Don't give yourself a hard and fast deadline, take the time it takes to do it right.
RP: Never settle. Never take shortcuts, and never assume your costume is 'amazing' because you have a dozen people replying with one-word answers such as "Neat!" or "Looks awesome!" on your build thread. Not everyone has thousands to spend on a Boba, but the truth is, that's how much one is going to cost. Your goal for building a Fett is to get it as screen-accurate as possible. That's going to include stenciling the exact damage, using the exact colors, painted on the exact armor dimensions to pull this off. It took me six years to get to where I'm at, and I'm still making tweaks here and there. It was about three years before I debuted it, which is about the same for a lot of the other costumers in the community. Take your time, buy the quality parts from the get-go, and talk to people in the community. Above all, be honest with yourself. Does the paint job you just completed look just like the exhibit/movie stills on your computer? No? Strip it, sand it, and try it again. Trial and error is the mantra of your endeavor to building the perfect Fett.
AP: You can waste time with your friends when your costume is done.
BFFC: Thank you all for taking part in this today. It's been fun and very informative. Keep up the good work!
RP: Thanks for interviewing us! It was definitely a better use of my afternoon than vegging out playing video games.
SK: Wait, we're still doing that, Rick!
SC: Thanks a bunch for including me!
AP: It's been an honor to have my hat tossed in with these gentlemen, they're true pillars of the community. It's been fun!
Be sure to check out these links for more Boba Fett costuming resources:
Boba Fett Fan Club contributing editor Lucas McCoy (formerly BFFC_therealmccoy) has been costuming for over five years as a member of the Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club. Follow him on Facebook.