Colin Cantwell, the man who designed Star Wars’ X-Wing and TIE-Fighter, dies at 90

DISAPPEARANCE – Architect, engineer, writer… His multiple skills enabled him to produce great special effects for the films of Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick and George Lucas, after a stint at NASA in the 1960s.

The galaxy is in mourning. Colin Cantwell, American designer of the iconic spaceships of the saga Star Warsdied on May 21 at his home, his partner Sierra Dall told the newspaper. The Hollywood Reporter . Passionate about space, architecture and animation, the designer left behind great special effects made in the early 1980s for renowned directors, such as Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick and George Lucas.

Born in 1932 in San Francisco, Colin Cantwell was passionate about the space universe from an early age. A taste acquired thanks to the many books in the library of his primary school, specifies his official biography, which he devoured during his very long convalescence, suffering in particular from tuberculosis.

Colin Cantwell then enrolled at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) where he perfected his knowledge while taking an interest in animation. After graduating, Colin Cantwell worked for Jet Propulsion Laboratory and NASA in the 1960s as the United States and Russia were in a space race. He was then responsible for developing educational programs on recent explorations and improving public understanding of the trajectories of the flights in question.

Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas…

His double hat then opened the doors to Hollywood where his skills in animation and his knowledge of aeronautics made him essential for studios in search of science fiction. “I worked closely with Stanley Kubrick“, he confided in 2016 during an interview with Reddit, recalling that he had created the spatial opening of the feature film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). “I persuaded him not to start the film with a twenty-minute discussion at the conference table”, he said, feeling that this passive beginning did not do the film justice. According to The Guardian Colin Cantwell would also have suggested several musics to Stanley Kubrick and in particular Thus spake Zarathustraby Richard Strauss, which opens the film.

Colin Cantwell then worked with Steven Spielberg to Dating of the Third Kind (1973), as a technical consultant. And shortly after, he received a call from George Lucas asking him to become the lead designer of the saga. Star Wars. From this union will be born most of the spaceships of the saga which made the great hours of Star Wars (1977). We owe him the X-Wing fighter, which takes its name from its cross-shaped wings, the Y-wing bomber, the TIE fighter, the stellar destroyers and the Death Star, the weapons of the Empire. Just like the Tantive IV, the ship with which Princess Leia fled Darth Vader.

Experiences that led him to write, direct and design Journey to the Outer Planets, the first Imax-type theater in San Diego, California. And the designer did not stop there since he also worked on the special effects of the television series Buck Rogers (1979) and also had a role in the feature film WarGames (1983) by director John Badham, to whom we also owe Saturday night fever (1977) and Dracula (1979).

Apart from these cinematic experiments, the designer has also made two science fiction novels, called Core Fires 1 and Core Fires 2. Two numbers that feature space freighters trying to transport supplies essential to the existence of humanity and life in space through deadly plasma-walled tunnels without damage. But thirsty for power, some small groups will join the dark forces and plan the theft of these goods to conquer the world.

At the end of his career, Colin Cantwell decided to gradually move away from the seventh art to devote himself to his job as a computer engineer in Colorado. A position that he preferred to that of the direction of the special effects studio Industrial Light & Magic of Lucasfilm which had nevertheless been proposed to him.


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