As the next wave of leaks from the next Star Wars are oh-so-slow to trickle in, hopefully this will tide you over: A colossal collection of 140 photographs featuring Industrial Light & Magic’s model-building process from 1977 to 1983. It’s simply incredible.
These photos can tell you everything you need to know about great filmmaking. In some cases it’s only a tweak of the lighting that makes the models go from a hunk of grey-painted plastic you might have made in your basement to “OMG I can’t believe how real that looks.” Which makes sense: These ships were often built with pieces from commercial model kits, which explains the model aeroplane vibe. They still build them this way, although now ILM might be inserting familiar shapes as more of an inside joke: For example, we know that a Batmobile is embedded in the new Millennium Falcon being prepared for Episode VII.
While there have been plenty of peeks at the vehicles that ILM built for the films (in many cases, they built several versions of each ship), there are some shots in this collection that I’ve just never seen before — like the skin of a Star Destroyer that looks like some kind of mechanical tree bark:
Here’s the coolest example of a model looking pretty much like you’ll recognise it in the film:
And the exquisite level of detail that you might have missed:
Here’s Lucas and some ILMers checking out an early version of the Millennium Falcon:
A close-up of a TIE interceptor:
Love this speeder bike with its “dashboard,” including icons in a strange language:
The Death Star has probably some of the coolest photos in the whole batch. First of all, it’s freaking gigantic, but it also was probably one of the hardest things to build since it has to look like it’s under construction — not an easy thing to accomplish. I love the little layers of sparkly mesh that add to its unfinishedness (and her sunglass/shirt combo):
So many X-wings needed for the battle scenes, so many tiny R2 units:
And finally, the hospital ship where Luke gets his artificial hand:
This part was not shot in the model: