The classic ‘Star Wars’ poster and The Force of history

June 19, 2010 | 2:00 a.m.
Star Wars poster

The Brothers Hildebrandt created one of the signature images of the 1970s with this striking, cosmic tableau showing the Skywalker family, a craggy terrain and a space battle unfolding in the starry sky. I had a poster of this painting on the wall of my room as a child and, as with many moviegoers, this was the entry-point image for a new mythology — the first glimpse of the George Lucas universe before any of us actually sat down in the dark with the 1977 film.

Greg Hildebrandt (who lost his twin, Tim, in 2006 in a diabetes-related death) will be in Santa Monica this Saturday at Every Picture Tells a Story, the gallery and shop that has become a true landmark in Southern California for sci-fi, fantasy and comics art. The gallery is hosting an exhibit of Hildebrandt’s original art as well as his posters and prints. He and his brother gained fame with their “The Lord of the Rings” work, but no single image they made cut through quite like the one shown above.

“My brother Tim and I created the first ‘Lord of the Rings‘ calendar in 1976 and that brought us international fame — but when the ‘Star Wars‘ poster hit in 1977, it really blew us up,” the 71-year-old said. “The attention to that piece has never let up.”

An interesting tidbit: The image shown above is the one that the Hildebrandts sent to Lucas but it underwent a major change before it hit the lobbies of theaters. What did Lucas tell the artists to add to the scene? Click to the jump to the see the original poster and the answer…

Star Wars poster final

Yes, it was the droids you were looking for.

Hildebrandt explains: “Incredibly, the first version of it — without the droids — was created in a feverish, nonstop effort over just 36 hours! George Lucas asked for the droids to be added and for our signatures to be larger. We made those changes at the ad agency, and off it went!”

– Geoff Boucher

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ART: Lucasfilm

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