Sad news alert: Star Wars concept artist Ralph McQuarrie, the man behind the designs for Darth Vader, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO, died March 3rd at the age of 82.
McQuarrie was a true talent and created many iconic sci fi images of the 1970s and 80s. The original Star Wars trilogy would not have been as wondrous or imaginative-looking without him. In fact, it may not have been made at all if George Lucas hadn’t taken a pile of McQuarrie’s inspiring drawings along with him when he successfully pitched his Star Wars idea at 20th Century Fox. When he had pitched his movie concept at Universal – without bringing any drawings – they passed.
In addition to working on the three films in the original Star Wars trilogy, McQuarrie provided designs for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., the original Battlestar Galactica TV series and won an Oscar for his work on Cocoon.
“Born in Gary, Indiana, McQuarrie began his career as a technical illustrator for aeroplane manufacturer Boeing and designing film posters.
He also animated US TV network CBS’s coverage of Nasa’s Apollo space programme.
In 1975, he was hired by Lucas to design some of the characters and scenes for his ‘space opera’ Star Wars.
As well as designing some of the sets including the desert planet Tatooine, McQuarrie also did the conceptual drawings for many characters.
His rewards included an uncredited role in the sequel The Empire Strikes Back, as General Pharl McQuarrie, and his own action figure.
In a statement, Lucas said: ‘His genial contribution, in the form of unequalled production paintings, propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy.
‘When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph’s fabulous illustrations and say, ‘do it like this’.'”