One of science-fiction film’s greatest, Ralph McQuarrie passed away tonight. He was 82.
One look in my office and you’ll know just how important a figure Ralph McQuarrie has been in my life. From the toys, the immensely-stout books chronicling his work, and the framed pics, it’s pretty bloody clear the visualist behind “Star Wars” definitely helped mould this man.
Sure, George Lucas gave us the “New Hope” words, but it’s McQuarrie that had us believing them via his jaw-droppingly superlative character and backdrop designs. In fact, it was McQuarrie’s designs for many of these characters, in particular Darth Vader, that helped Lucas convince Fox to make “Star Wars”.
“I just did my best to depict what I thought the film should look like, I really liked the idea,” McQuarrie said in a later interview. “I didn’t think the film would ever get made. My impression was it was too expensive. There wouldn’t be enough of an audience. It’s just too complicated. But George knew a lot of things that I didn’t know.”
Remember the teaser for “Empire Strikes Back”? No footage, just a slideshow of McQuarrie’s designs. Knowing we’d be sold, Fox were happy to run with it.
I believe McQuarrie was also recruited, after the success of “Star Wars”, to do some work on TV’s “Battlestar Galactica” – in fact NBC tried to get a slew of those responsible for the bells-and-whistles in the 1977 blockbuster to work on their spacely-series. His involvement was limited though.
McQuarrie’s doodles were also used to great effect in “Return of the Jedi”. And he would later also work on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “E.T : The Extra Terrestrial”, “Nightbreed” and Universal’s now-closed “Back to the Future : The Ride”.
Though he was offered the job, McQuarrie decided not to work on the “Star Wars” prequels, instead offering some young guns the opportunity to inherit the pencil tin.
In other words, he really did go out on top.
Rest in peace, Sir.