The man who shaped the look of the “Star Wars” universe has died.
Ralph McQuarrie might not be a household name like Harrison Ford and probably isn’t as familiar to movie fans as “Star Wars” creator George Lucas.
But McQuarrie — born in Gary, Indiana, in 1929, died today — is responsible for the designs and images we think of when we think of the “Star Wars” films.
McQuarrie was chosen by Lucas to create concept art for the first “Star Wars” movie to help Lucas sell the idea to 20th Century Fox. McQuarrie painted the figures, weapons, ships and worlds used in the film. They are images indelible in the collective memory of movies and pop culture.
For fans like me, caught up in the imaginative world of “Star Wars” when the movie was released in 1977, McQuarrie’s “Star Wars Portfolio” was a must-have item that’s still on my bookshelf. I spent countless hours studying McQuarrie’s paintings.
The portfolio collected prints of the paintings of McQuarrie, showing the early looks of the characters. His design for Darth Vader is surely one of the most familiar figures from movies — ever.
What always fascinated me about McQuarrie’s designs was the little differences between the concept he visualized as the finished movie: Pointy ears on Chewbacca. Headbands and beards on some of the characters. Gender differences (as Lucas refined his story and characters). Characters other than Jedi using lightsabers.
McQuarrie painted designs for other films, including “Close Encounters” and “Cocoon,” for which he won an Oscar. “Star Wars” made him a legend.
McQuarrie and his talent will be missed.