Excerpt from the pages of Star Wars Insider: The Soul Sketchbook of Iain McCaig

The Official Magazine sits down with the acclaimed artist to talk about his inspirations and his time working at Skywalker Ranch on Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

The fertile imagination of concept artist Iain McCaig was once considered too scary for George Lucas. McCaig, whose career includes accolades as a storyteller and filmmaker, was hired by Lucasfilm in the late 1990s. Part of the esteemed art department that shaped the design of the prequel trilogy, McCaig tapped into his deepest fears. depths and his scariest nightmares to come up with ideas for the bestial Darth Maul.

In an exclusive excerpt from Star Wars Insider #210, writer Brandon Wainerdi sits down with McCaig to find out what inspired the artist on the path to creating “Space Nouveau” and why he returned to the drawing board after his first attempt at designing Maul.

Star Wars Insider: What were your first childhood inspirations?

Iain McCaig: My family was made up of storytellers, full of stories and endless bedtime stories. I grew up surrounded by a dragon of books and comics, TV and movies, piles of famous monsters, National geographic magazines, and the Holy Grail: a complete set of world book encyclopedia. In the beginning, I never separated the images from the words. My biggest inspiration was Ray Bradbury, who filled my head with so many images that I either had to run to the drawing board to empty them or watch my head explode.

Star Wars Insider: How did you go about redefining the look of the star wars galaxy for a time before the original trilogy?

Iain McCaig: George asked the question, “What makes him star wars, and not a number of other science fiction films? Our answer was in the opening crawl. The story happened “a long time ago”, which meant that it was not about an imaginary future or an extrapolation of science or technology. star wars came from the time of legends and was not science fiction at all — star wars was mythology. And we go back even further in time.

One way to make something mythical is to take inspiration from before the industrial revolution. It was a time when most things were still handmade, created with human skill. Looking for a style for costumes and characters, I studied Alphonse Mucha and the romantic visions of the Pre-Raphaelites, Orientalists and Art Nouveau. I imitated their love of nature as I walked through Skywalker Ranch, sketchbook in hand, studying the sinuous forms of the natural world. The result was “New Space”.

Iain McCaig's concept for a Sith

One of McCaig’s early concepts for Darth Maul. The look was inspired by his “worst nightmare” as specified in George Lucas’ script.

Star Wars Insider: Did you have anyone in mind when you were working on the design of Darth Maul?

Iain McCaig: I like to use the essence of a real person to inspire my designs. So I started asking everyone in the art department to pose for me: the digital preview lead became a sleek Sith Lord with a stylized circuit board on his face, and our production designer emerged with a tattoo-like ink stain on his face. .

In the first draft of the screenplay, George described Darth Maul as “A vision of your worst nightmare”. I’ve had many worst nightmares, but my worst at the time was of a lifeless face with twinkling dead eyes and gleaming metal teeth staring at me through the rain-streaked window of my third-floor studio apartment. stage. I drew a stylized version of this image, using red ribbons on the face instead of rain streaks, and presented it in a white folder at the next meeting with George. He opened the file, shouted, then closed it and returned it to me. “Okay,” he said, “Give me your second worst nightmare.”

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Learn more in Star Wars Insider number 210 and subscribe to Star Wars Insider now for more breaking news, in-depth articles and exclusive interviews in every issue!

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KEYWORDS: Iain McCaig, Star Wars Insider, Star Wars Insider #210

Calvin W. Soper