The props and costumes of Starship
Troopers were extremely diverse and ranged from simple school costumes to
'jumpball' team kits, Federal dress uniforms to the intricate and awesome Mobile
In total, around 2,300 costumes were made
for the movie. Most of the core costumes that would be featuring in the movie
(infantry outfits etc) were designed by the thirty-strong SST wardrobe
department. From there, the work on each individual project was contracted
An L.A. based company called Proper Effects
was responsible for the main Trooper costumes, and manufactured a total of 1,500
Trooper boots, 800 3-piece rubber armor vests, and most significantly, a total
of 1,000 fiberglass M3 tactical helmets.
The helmets were made with layered
fiberglass and were mass-produced for the principal and background performers.
All of the helmets were made in one size and were practically identical.
However, some were modified and reduced in size to fit some of the smaller
Troopers, female actors, and more noticeably, the child Trooper in the opening
"I'm doing my part" scene.
From the 1,000 helmets produced, around 25
of the best quality were taken aside for principal use. These were known as the
"A" grade helmets, and the remaining helmets were destined to stay as "B" grade,
for background use and stunt scenes.
If a helmet was chosen as a prospective "A"
grade helmet, or a stunt "B" grade helmet that needed close-to-camera detail, it
was given further modifications and enhancements.
The "A" grade helmets were specifically for
close-to-camera use. This is why the general appearance was improved and the
extra details added.
Each principle character (in the Mobile
Infantry) was given at least one of the "A" helmets as part of their personal
costume. The helmet had the actor's character name written inside the dome in
white marker, and was then considered to be a "Hero" helmet. Hero helmets may
have been used by more than one actor, and some principals had multiple hero
helmets in their costume, as well as maybe a few "B" grades for use in dangerous
or stunt scenes. For example, Casper Van Dien, who played the hero Johnny Rico,
used at least 5 hero helmets and 2 or 3 "B" grades for stunt
All of the helmets had a basic foam-padding
insert inside the dome to make them easier to wear. Most "A" grade helmets, and
some stunt and background helmets, were further enhanced with the addition of
foam blocks, which would make the fit more comfortable, and would prevent them
from wobbling around when the actor was running. Every helmet was also given a
black football-style chinstrap, which was attached via button fasteners, and
added to making the helmets more stable to wear.
The "A" grade helmets were then given a
more detailed and accurate paint finish, with more care and attention to detail.
They were also fitted with improved chin strap "wings", which concealed the
fastening buttons and looked tidier than the "B" grade version. Then, the "A"
grade helmets were fitted with a black rubber collar and a pair of brass ear
screens, to suggest internal comms (communications) equipment (for plot purposes
- not practical). The ear screens were originally painted black to stand out
from the helmet's grey base colour, but most were later repainted/repaired with
the basic grey colour once the black started to wear.
The "A" grade helmets were also fitted with
faux microphones, to accompany the ear screens in presenting the illusion that
each helmet was fitted with a functioning personal comms system. Originally, the
MICs were a metal tube (aluminium) with a black rubber moulded 'speaker' tip.
This sat inside a black outer tube, which slotted into a pre-drilled hole in the
front of the helmet. However, the aluminium MIC tubes were frequently knocked
on-set, bent and damaged, so for safety and continuity purposes, the tubes were
replaced with silver metal springs, which would not lose their form (and thus
not jeopardise continuity).
In the original costume designs, the MI
helmets would be fitted with a flip-down tactical HUD (heads up display) visor.
A number of the "A" grade helmets were fitted with a pair of blocks to
accommodate the visors, so the plastic visors could simply be added quickly by
screwing them into the blocks. However, following initial screen tests, they
were cut because the visors produced a large amount of glare and also obscured
the actor's eyes. In the end, they were deemed to be too problematic and were
cut from the final production, although, they can be briefly seen being worn by
the Whiskey Outpost tower gunners as eye protection from the massive tower
As a part of the new MI recruits training,
they take part in a 'lazertag' training game, where the Troopers are split into
two teams - teams RED and BLUE - and take part in a traditional game of capture
the flag, except with incapacitating laser weapons. The participating Troopers
wore a mix of "A" and "B" grade helmets, the "A" grades being worn by principle
characters (Rico, Ace, etc) and close-to-camera actors, and the "B" grades were
worn by more out-of-shot Troopers. The helmet domes were painted in a bright
vibrant red or blue colour to distinguish the teams. Following shooting of the
lazertag game, all of the team helmets (except for one) were repainted in the
traditional grey colour for use in other scenes.
The M3 tactical helmet plays a pivotal role
of its own at various points in the movie. For instance, it is the
'malfunctioning' M3 helmet that gets the recruit Breckenridge killed during
basic training when he removes it during a live fire exercise.
There were also a few variants of the
standard M3 helmet used throughout the movie.
Some Medic Troopers wore helmets into
battle, such as in the Klendathu assault scene. These were simple "B" grade
helmets with a Red Medic cross insignia on the front of the dome.
There were also a few custom made 'Fleet'
helmets made for Carmen, Zander and the pilots in the 'Escape pod' scene. These
were basic MI helmets with a larger MIC and more built-up and developed ear
screens (both reminiscent of a modern fighter pilot). The helmet was also given
a Fleet insignia badge on the front of the dome.
Overall, the M3 tactical helmet became the
symbol of Starship Troopers, as one of the mainstay props and most
characteristic and dominant pieces of costume in the movie. As such, the iconic
helmet appeared in promotional posters, on CD covers and flyers for the movie,
and is now one of the most sought after prop pieces from this great