Colin Cantwell, Artist Who Designed Iconic ‘Star Wars’ Spacecrafts, Dead at 90

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Julien's Auctions Icons & Idols: Hollywood Gala Honoring Loni Anderson - Credit: WireImage
Julien's Auctions Icons & Idols: Hollywood Gala Honoring Loni Anderson - Credit: WireImage

Colin Cantwell, the concept artist and designer credited with creating many of Star Wars’ iconic spacecrafts — including the TIE fighter, X-wing and Death Star — has died at the age of 90.

The Hollywood Reporter first reported Cantwell’s death Saturday at his Colorado home. While no cause of death was provided, his partner Sierra Dall said on his official Instagram page that he had been battling Alzheimer’s in recent years.

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An animator and architect who almost studied under Frank Lloyd Wright, Cantwell gained a space background while working on educational videos for Jet Propulsion Laboratory and NASA in the late-Sixties amid the space race, Cantwell’s bio states.

Cantwell made his first big-screen impact when he was recruited by director Stanley Kubrick to work on 2001: A Space Odyssey, creating “special photographic effects” for the 1968 sci-fi classic; Cantwell is also credited with helping to develop some of the movie’s most awe-inspiring space sequences.

“Kubrick was distraught over the score and had fired multiple composers,” Cantwell’s website writes. “One night, while having an intimate conversations with Stanley over turkey sandwiches at Kubrick’s house, Colin suggested the now famous theme ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’ as well as most of the other music in the film except ‘The Blue Danube Waltz.'”

Cantwell’s work on 2001 led to him being sought by George Lucas for Star Wars, with Cantwell designing many of the starships and vehicles featured in the 1977 blockbuster and beyond: The Death Star, X-Wings, Y-Wings, the Empire’s TIE fighters and an early iteration of what would become the Millennium Falcon; as Screenrant notes, one of Cantwell’s unused designs resurfaced in the 2018 film Solo: A Star Wars Story, where it was dubbed “the Cantwell-Class Arrestor Cruiser.”

Before leaving the motion picture business, Cantwell’s other credits included work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and WarGames, where Cantwell helped design the screens that represented the film’s War Operation Plan Response (WOPR) computer and the climatic final scene.

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