Q&A with Creator of Star Wars’ Death Star, Colin Cantwell

If you’re a Star Wars fan, then you know our friend Colin Cantwell’s work.

The sci-fi pioneer designed and constructed the original prototypes for all of the Star Wars spaceships in 1974 and 1975, including the very first X-Wing Fighter, Y-Wing Fighter, Tie Fight, Star Destroyer, Death Star, Landspeeder, and of course, the Millennium Falcon.


We had a chance to connect with Colin on his conceptual designs, personal experiences with George Lucas and why he is now embracing the con scene.

Here’s what he had to say:

IGC: Colin, tell us, how did you get your start in modeling?

CC: I started modeling long before I was involved in the Star Wars franchise. I developed the concept of kitbashing as a way of pioneering various advances in the field. Kitbashing involves dismantling model kits of various types (cars, trains, planes, etc.) and reconstructing them into creative designs of my own making.

IGC: Wow, that’s awesome, Colin. So what inspired you to design all of the models you’ve created for high-profile films? 

CC: Each model was treated as a personality in the movie. They were as unique as its role in the film. I thought about how audiences would respond to each ship. The ideas for the designs evolved in my mind from there… I wanted to create a new type of potential feature film.

IGC: What does nobody know about the Star Wars Death Star?

CC: The Death Star trench and subsequent fight scenes evolved as a solution to a problem. I had initially ordered a styrene ball to start working on my model. It arrived in two halves. Unfortunately, the edges of two halves had shrunk where they were supposed to be connected at the equator. Therefore, the Death Star trench and fight scenes were conceived as a way to solve that problem.

IGC: What’s your favorite memory working with George Lucas?

CC: Every interaction from day one! It grew with each new, mutual exploration.


IGC: What was your first interaction like?

CC: I had created two kitbashed ships as a method of revolutionizing modeling in the industry. When George first saw these ships, he looked at them through his view finder. He explored each 3D ship image as a potential new shot or transition. I stayed silent, while he led me through his own viewpoints, explorations and surprises. Until, finally, he stopped. Our relationship evolved from there.

IGC: How did your Star Wars designs change from the beginning of creating the models to when they actually appeared in the films?

CC: The models of the ships were much more complex. When I started making the models, the designs evolved from the concept drawings into something more detailed and sophisticated – just like I envisioned them in the movie.

IGC: Can you describe the changes?

CC: To describe every model would take hours. Each model was created as a miniature with extraordinary detail, befitting of the complexity of the impending scenes.

IGC: Have you been blown away by any fan models?

CC: Among many extraordinary duplicates by exceptional artists, Jason Eaton has created some amazingly detailed and accurate models of my ships.

IGC: Ok, we have to ask, Colin. What do you like and dislike about most fan conventions?

CC: Meeting the extraordinarily creative people at conventions has been invigorating. Also, learning how much my models and career have inspired others in their lives. The hours are long, but even that is not much of an issue.

IGC: Can you describe your favorite fan moment?

CC: Over the past year and a half, I have met thousands of wonderful people. It would be hard to pick out any particular fan as a favorite.

IGC: What are you most excited about for InterGalactiCon?

CC: It seems that in every area of the country each show has something different to offer. I am looking forward to meeting new people and exploring new ideas.


IGC: What can fans expect from you at InterGalactiCon?

CC: In addition to fans being able to see some of my original concept drawings and model photos, I will be presenting a series of video clips during my panel. This is a very interactive type of panel in which the audience has input on the videos they would like to see. Content choices range from multiple Star Wars-related topics to The First Landing on the Moon: 2001, A Space Odyssey, War Games: How to Get the Career that You Want and many more.

To learn more about Colin Cantwell, visit his website: www.colincantwell.com 

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