Colin Cantwell

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Colin Cantwell
Colin Cantwell at a signing event in TATE’S Comics in Lauderhill, Florida on March 17, 2019
Born(1932-04-03)April 3, 1932
DiedMay 21, 2022(2022-05-21) (aged 90)
Alma materUniversity of California, Los Angeles
PartnerSierra Dall
RelativesRobert Cantwell (uncle)

Colin James Cantwell (April 3, 1932 – May 21, 2022) was an American concept artist and director known for his work on films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and WarGames, but primarily for doing initial concept designs and models for a number of Star Wars vehicles, most notably the X-wing fighter, the TIE fighter, and the Death Star, that were then further developed by people like Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston.


While employed by NASA, Cantwell was in the CBS News studio for the Apollo 11 Moon landing, assisting Walter Cronkite as he narrated the landing.[1]

In the early seventies, Cantwell was employed by the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center to produce effects for, and direct, an early multimedia presentation titled Voyage to the Outer Planets (1973) that would show a spacecraft touring the outer planets of the Solar System.[2][3]

While working on visual effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey with Douglas Trumbull, Cantwell persuaded Stanley Kubrick "'not to start the movie with a 20-minute conference table discussion.' It was Cantwell who created the dramatic space opening that followed the dawn of man and bone thrown into the air",[4] and who suggested the use of Also sprach Zarathustra for the opening theme music.[5] In 1974 Cantwell was hired to work on the original Star Wars film.[6] Based on Lucas' directions he created the original designs and concept models for a number of vehicles including the X-wing fighter, the Y-wing, the TIE fighter, the Star Destroyer, the Death Star, the Tantive IV (which was originally intended to be the Millennium Falcon), the landspeeder and the sandcrawler.[1][7] Cantwell's original designs were further developed by concept artists like Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston. One of Cantwell's concept models was used in the film, with Luke playing with it as he talks to C-3PO.[8] One of Cantwell's original Star Destroyer designs was further developed for the 2018 Solo: A Star Wars Story but ultimately unused although Hot Wheels did release a toy version.[9]

Cantwell consulted with Hewlett-Packard on the development of their Hewlett-Packard 9845C desktop computers which were designed for graphical tasks,[10] also creating a demo package to show off its capabilities.[11] He then used HP 9845C desktop computers to design and create the computer graphics for the large displays in the NORAD set on the 1983 WarGames film.[12]

In 2014, a number of items were auctioned from Cantwell's collection for a total of $118,732.50.[1]

Cantwell wrote a science fiction novel, CoreFires, and a sequel, CoreFires2; they were published in 2016 and 2018, respectively.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Colin James Cantwell was born on April 3, 1932, in San Francisco. He earned a bachelor's degree in applied arts from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1957.[5]

One of his uncles, Robert Cantwell, was a critic and author.[5]

Cantwell died at his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado on May 21, 2022, aged 90.[13][5][14][4] His partner, Sierra Dall, had reported that Cantwell had been afflicted with Alzheimer's disease in the final years of his life.[15]


In 1984, Cantwell was nominated at the 37th British Academy Film Awards for Best Special Visual Effects for his work on WarGames. Return of the Jedi won the award.[16]


  1. ^ a b c John Wenzel (December 8, 2017). "He kept his Star Wars legacy a secret in Boulder for decades. At 85, the sci-fi pioneer is ready to step out". The Denver Post. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  2. ^ Greg Bear (2017). "The Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater: the Early Years, and Before". Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  3. ^ "Colin Cantwell". BFI. Archived from the original on August 6, 2016. Retrieved June 20, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Parker, Ryan (May 22, 2022). "Colin Cantwell, Concept Artist Who Designed Iconic 'Star Wars' Spacecraft, Dies at 90". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d "Colin Cantwell, who designed the Death Star for 'Star Wars,' dies at 90". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  6. ^ J. W. Rinzler (2007). The Making of Star Wars. Del Rey Books.
  7. ^ Bouzereau, Laurent (1997). Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays. Ballantine Books. pp. 99, 311. ISBN 0345409817.
  8. ^ Stephen J. Sansweet (1992). Star Wars : From Concept to Screen to Collectible. Lucasfilm.
  9. ^ Phil Szostak (2018). Art Of Solo: A Star Wars Story.
  10. ^ Frost, John B.; Hale, William L. (December 1980). "Color Enhances Computer Graphics System". Hewlett Packard Journal. 21 (12).
  11. ^ A. Kückes (2010). "Screen Art: HP 9845C Demo". The HP 9845 Project. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  12. ^ A. Kückes (2010). "Screen Art: WARGAMES". Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  13. ^ a b Sandomir, Richard (May 24, 2022). "Colin Cantwell, 'Star Wars' Spacecraft Designer, Dies at 90". The New York Times. Retrieved May 24, 2022.
  14. ^ RIP Star Wars designer Colin Cantwell
  15. ^ Kreps, Daniel (May 22, 2022). "Colin Cantwell, Artist Who Designed Iconic 'Star Wars' Spacecrafts, Dead at 90". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 22, 2022.
  16. ^ "Film - Special Visual Effects in 1984". Retrieved June 19, 2021.

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