by Samantha Lowell
The best known production artist in cinematic history and one of the founding fathers of a galaxy far, far away has died. Ralph McQuarrie’s website announced this week that the artist responsible for the look of the Star Wars universe and many other films, passed away at the age of 82.
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of such a visionary artist and such a humble man,” George Lucas said in a statement.”Ralph McQuarrie was the first person I hired to help me envision Star Wars. His genial contribution, in the form of unequaled production paintings,propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy.”
The modest, unassuming McQuarrie summarized his career in two eras: Before Star Wars and After Star wars. Before Star Wars, he’d spent thirty years as an unknown technical illustrator for Boeing and CBS, where he created animation for the Apollo moon landings, before a young George Lucas approached him to help design an unlikely project which several studios had already rejected.
Working with the dictum that the new universe was to look lived-in and realistic, McQuarrie used his skills in aviation design to create the look of the Star Wars universe and crafted such now-iconic images asDarth Vader. His designs for the film’s climactic battle were inspired by the battles in the Pacific during the Second World War. His work quickly set the standard for decades of genre and science fiction films to come.
With the runaway success of Star Wars: A New Hope, McQuarrie suddenly found himself, at age 49, a household word and the most sought after production Illustrator ever to work in films. He went on to design “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” and a who’s who of film classics, including “Raiders of the Lost Ark,”"E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial,” “Back to the Future,”"Cocoon,” “Total Recall,” and the original TV series”Battlestar Galactica,”
McQuarrie preferred to think of himself as merely a member of a successful team, crediting Star Wars production designer John Barry and George Lucas for the success of his breakout project, taking a more philosophical view of his own success. In an interview released shortly after the first Star Wars film was released, McQuarrie stated with quiet satisfaction, “Thirty years of work are finally paying off. “
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