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Colin Cantwell, the longtime Hollywood concept artist who designed several iconic spacecraft for the ‘Star Wars’ franchise – most notably the X-Wing Starfighter and the Death Star – died this weekend at his Colorado home. He was 90.
Sierra Dall, Cantwell’s long-time partner, confirmed the news on his official Instagram page on Saturday. In the final years of his life, Cantwell had reportedly been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.
He was perhaps best known for designing the prototypes for the X-wing Starfighter, TIE fighter and Death Star. He also created lesser known spacecrafts in the science-fiction series, such as the Y-wing, the Star Destroyer, the Tantive IV (which was supposed to be the Millennium Flacon), the landspeeder and the sandcrawler.
He further worked on other classic films, including ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ ‘WarGames,’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’
Before his Hollywood career, Cantwell also worked at NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory and helped provide updates between the press and astronauts during the 1969 moon landing – playing a key role in Walter Cronkite’s live broadcast of the events.
Colin Cantwell, 90, will be best remembered for creating the prototypes for the spacecrafts in Star Wars, including the X-Wing, Starfighter, TIE fighter and the Death Star after dying at his home on Saturday
Cantwell designed the X-wing fighter, the spacecraft piloted by Luke Skywalker when Luke destroys the Death Star in Episode IV of Star Wars (A New Hope: Destruction of the Death Star)
Cantwell also came up with designs for the Y-wing, the Star Destroyer, the Tantitve IV (which was supposed to be the Millennium Flacon), the landspeeder and the sandcrawler
The concept artist and designer worked with famous cinematic directors George Lucas and Stanley Kubrick
Cantwell was born in San Francisco in 1932. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis and a partial retinal detachment during his childhood.
‘The cure was to confine me to a dark room with a heavy vest across my chest to prevent coughing fits,’ Cantwell further wrote in the Reddit forum. ‘I spent nearly TWO YEARS of my childhood immobilized in this dark room. Suffice to say, nothing else could slow me down after that!.’
Before working on Hollywood films, Cantwell attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where he got a degree in animation. He also attended Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture – on a personal invitation from the legendary architect.
In the 1960s, during the race to space between the US and the USSR, he worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and NASA on educational programs about flights.
Cantwell then worked with NASA to feed Walter Cronkite updates during the 1969 moon landing.
He was the middle-man between the CBS News Studio and the astronauts that were aboard the Apollo 11 spaceflight, which includes Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edward ‘Buzz’ Aldrin Jr.
A picture of the Apollo 11 mission launch (as the Saturn V rocket), which Cantwell worked on in 1969 along with Walter Cronkite
Colin Cantwell is survived by his partner of 24 years Sierra Dall (right) after Saturday’s news
Cantwell’s personal auction, which included some of the Star War spacecrafts designs, was once sold for a total worth of $118,732.50 in 2014
Visual Effects Artist Colin Cantwell attends Julien’s Auctions Icons & Idols: Hollywood gala honoring Loni Anderson at Julien’s Auctions Gallery on December 3, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California
Cantwell once said that he came up with the X-Wing’s design by noticing the way that the back end of a dart is designed during a night out at a bar. He also said that the Death Star’s trench was created out of laziness.
‘I didn’t originally plan for the Death Star to have a trench, but when I was working with the mold, I noticed the two halves had shrunk at the point where they met across the middle,’ Cantwell said in the forum. ‘It would have taken a week of work just to fill and sand and re-fill this depression. So, to save me the labor, I went to George [Lucas] and suggested a trench.’
Cantwell also wrote two science fictions novels, called CoreFires 1 and CoreFires 2.
He additionally worked as a consultant with Hewlett Packard (HP) on the development of several of their desktop computers created for graphic tasks, including the company’s first multicolor PC monitor.
His personal auction, which included some of the Star War spacecrafts designs, was once sold for a total worth of $118,732.50 in 2014, according to The Denver Post.
He is survived by his partner of 24 years, Sierra Dall.