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The M3 Tactical Helmet (Starship Troopers)
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 Infantry costumes! 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 out. 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 scenes. 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 guns. 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 movie.