University professor doubles as Star Wars stormtrooper

Revesby resident and finance professor Craig Ellis takes a break in his stormtrooper outfit. Photo: Steven Siewert Craig Ellis (far right) with fellow Star Wars fans in their costumes in Sydney. Photo: Steven Siewert

A stormtrooper chases Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Photo: Lucasfilm

By day 48-year-old Craig Ellis is an associate professor of finance at a university, but in his spare time he goes over to the dark side by kitting up as a detail-perfect stormtrooper.

Since 2011, the self-professed “Star Wars tragic” has been a member of the 501st Legion, nicknamed Vader’s Fist, a club of costume enthusiasts who enjoy dressing up as the villains of the film franchise.

Other Star Wars costume groups exist in NSW alongside the 501st Legion, including the Rebel Legion, who portray the good guys of George Lucas’s cinematic universe, and the Galactic Academy, for cosplayers (short for costume players) aged under 18. The NSW-ACT branch of the 501st Legion, known as the Southern Cross Garrison, has 88 active members.

“Anyone can join just as a fan, but to be a full member you have to have a movie-accurate costume,” Ellis says.

It can become a pricey and time-consuming hobby as members either craft their own outfits or buy unassembled kits that need to be carefully put together to fit each person.

“You’re looking at between about $1000 up to $3000 or $4000,” Lincoln Green, the commanding officer of the Southern Cross Garrison, says of the cost. “The higher-end ones are Darth Vader or Boba Fett, the really iconic characters.”

For Revesby resident Ellis, who teaches at Western Sydney University, his costume cost almost $2000 and took seven months to piece together.

While the members of the 501st Legion might look like bad guys, they actually spend most of their time doing good deeds. When they receive a request via their website to attend an event – from fetes to screenings to even weddings – they request a charity donation for their attendance. Each year the members nominate a charity to support. Their latest is mental health organisation Black Dog Institute.

Requests for appearances have spiked dramatically amid interest in the film franchise sparked by the release of the Disney reboot Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Thursday.

Ellis is more than happy to continue doing his good work hidden behind his stormtrooper mask.

“Every time I put the costume on I’m grinning from ear to ear underneath that helmet,” he says. “Every single time.”

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