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Who was Colin Cantwell? Exploring the legacy of Star Wars' X-Wing and Death Star designer as he passes away at 90

Star Wars Ship Designer Colin Cantwell Dies at 90 ( Image via Jerod Harris/ Getty Images)
Star Wars Ship Designer Colin Cantwell Dies at 90 ( Image via Jerod Harris/ Getty Images)
Sachin Goswami

Colin Cantwell passed away on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at the age of 90. The concept artist is said to have died at his Colorado home after a long battle with dementia. Cantwell's longtime partner, Sierra Dall, later informed Newsy of the artist's death.

Colin Cantwell, visionary designer and builder of iconic #StarWars ships including the X-wing, TIE fighter and Death Star, died Saturday at his Colorado home after battling dementia, his longtime partner Sierra Dall tells @Newsy. Cantwell was 90. #RIP https://t.co/BwBZKFMMbg

He was best known for his collaboration with George Lucas on Star Wars, where he developed and built prototypes for the X-wing, TIE fighter, Star Destroyer, and Death Star, among other things.


The legacy left behind by the late Colin Cantwell

Colin Cantwell was born in San Francisco in 1932, and his fascination in space began at a young age. He went on to attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he proposed that the school develop an animation program. Cantwell would go on to become the first animation graduate of UCLA.

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Cantwell spent much of the 1960s and 1970s working on both real-life NASA missions, probing the last frontier, and sci-fi imaginings of what might be out there.

Cantwell had a successful career before making his way to Hollywood. Cantwell worked at NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, developing public education initiatives to help people understand space flight.

Cantwell would go on to design several classic scenes in many science fiction films, combining his interests in architecture and space. The concepts for 2001: A Space Odyssey, particularly the film's dramatic opening sequence, were among his contributions.

He said:

“I worked closely with Stanley Kubrick and persuaded him not to start the movie with a 20-minute conference table discussion.”

He got a call from George Lucas requesting him to be a concept artist on Star Wars after seeing his work on the spacecraft in 2001 and after he served as a technical dialogue consultant for Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1973.

His prototype drawings were used to create all of the ships depicted in the classic 1977 film, from the X-Wing fighter and Rebel cruisers to the Star Destroyers and Death Star.

RIP Colin Cantwell. You might know him for creating the Death Star, the X-Wing, and many more designs in Star Wars. I had the opportunity to meet him once and he was very kind. Star Wars wouldn’t be what it is without him. https://t.co/ddc84N7FZ2

Cantwell stated that the X-Wing was inspired by the rear end of a dart he'd seen during a night at a pub, while the Death Star's trench, which Luke Skywalker flies down to destroy, came from a touch of sloth.

His contribution to the Star Wars brand cannot be overstated since his work established the franchise's design ideals, which are still relevant today through new designs introduced in shows like The Mandalorian.

Colin, however, didn't stop there. He went on to work as a computer programmer on John Badham's Cold War thriller WarGames, released in 1983.

Colin Cantwell enjoyed a quiet life away from the spotlight, working as a computer engineer in Colorado in his later years. CoreFires 1 and CoreFires 2 are his two science fiction novels. And fans will remember the artist warmly for his contribution to the creation of a galaxy far, far away.


Edited by Soumyadyuti Ghosh

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