Conceptual designer and illustrator Ralph McQuarrie passed away yesterday at the age of 82. McQuarrie was instrumental in the original design of the Star Wars universe. 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. When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph’s fabulous illustrations and say, ‘Do it like this.’”
McQuarrie also worked on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Battlestar Galactica. He won an Oscar in 1986 in the Best Visual Effects category for his work on Cocoon. His influence on the aesthetics of modern sci-fi/fantasy filmmaking resonates to this day, and he will be missed. Hit the jump for a look at some of his classic work.
The story that accompanies the Star Wars gallery on McQuarrie’s official site supports Lucas’ sentiment:
As unimaginable as it may seem now, when George Lucas initially showed his script for Star Wars around Hollywood, the reception he received was far from enthusiastic. In fact by the time it reached United Artists and Universal it was greeted with outright rejection. A decision they doubtless regret to this day. . .
“I think it was a sin that those people looked at it and didn’t grasp the scope of the images George wanted to relay, but they didn’t see any drawings.” -McQuarrie
George resolved he wouldn’t continue relying upon studio execs to use their imagination. He decided he would utilise Ralph’s talents to spell out how the movie would look. When he made his pitch to Alan Ladd Jr. at 20th Century Fox he did so with a table full of Ralph’s art. The rest as the say is history.