Colin Cantwell, the designer of numerous starships from the Star Wars universe, has died at the age of 90. Cantwell designed and prototyped the Death Star, X-Wing, Y-Wing and TIE Fighter, among others. Before his Hollywood career, he worked at NASA.
Cantwell studied architecture and made miniatures of spaceships and accompanying landscapes as a hobby. Friends of his introduced him to George Lucas, who showed him a project that would eventually become Star Wars. Thus began the collaboration between Cantwell and the Star Wars film director, Cantwell told me in an ask me anything session on reddit in 2016.
Many iconic starships from the movie classics were designed by Cantwell. He is the creator of the X-Wing Starfighter. That spaceship had to be ‘ultra cool and different from all associations with airplanes’. A dart in a British pub gave Cantwell the inspiration for the design. be on his website sketching the first designwhich still differs considerably from the final X-Wing.
First design of X-wing. Image: Conlin Cantwell
The TIE Fighter, Death Star and Star Destroyer were also conceived and designed by Cantwell. The spaceships made their appearance in the first Star Wars films and are still prominent in new Star Wars productions decades later. According to Cantwell, he always had freedom when creating designs.
Cantwell also worked with Stanley Kubrick on special effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey and contributed to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and WarGames. During the space race in the 1960s, the designer worked on educational programs at the American space agency NASA. During the historic moon landing in 1969, Cantwell was the person who provided the TV commentator with information from NASA. He also wrote two sci-fi books: CoreFires 1 and CoreFires 2.
Cantwell’s partner has confirmed to Hollywood Reporter that he passed away last Saturday at his home in Colorado.