This year at New York Comic Con, Star Wars fans that swing by the Spiderweb Art Gallery location (booth #1764) will be treated to something truly special. Famed fantasy artist, Greg Hildebrandt, will unveil a one of a kind reproduction of the famous Style “B” Star Wars movie poster he and his brother Tim painted over 40 years ago. And like all things unique, there’s a story behind it.
When George Lucas first saw Tom Jung’s now famous Style “A” Star Wars movie poster, he liked it but thought it was too dark and perhaps not appropriate for audiences. He let it be known that he would like another version commissioned and with the American premiere just around the corner, they had only a week to go.
Having impressed an art studio in Manhattan with the quality and speed of their previous work, and now recognized everywhere for their amazing Lord of the Rings campaign; Greg and Tim Hildebrandt were tasked with painting a more palatable version of Jung’s one sheet. Working off Jung’s version and black and white stills from the unreleased film, they went to work and in a remarkable 36 hours produced one of the more famous posters in film history…
“An art director from Manhattan called us and asked for help saying the director of this film didn’t think the poster he had was appropriate, not that he didn’t like it, just that he wanted another poster made. It was described to us as, “some kind of a science fiction movie” because nobody had seen it yet. We went to the studio and they showed us the Tom Jung poster and gave us a bunch of pictures from the movie. We talked about it, moved a couple of things around and took it all back to Jersey.”
The final product, while similar to Jung’s, differs in many ways once you lean in and absorb the finer details. Both versions depict the character of Luke Skywalker in a heroic pose holding his now famous lightsaber above his head with Princess Leia standing just below him. A closer look reveals facial variations that almost make Hildebrandt’s characters more ambiguous…
“They said don’t worry about the likenesses for these two characters (Luke and Leia) because nobody knows who they are. So I didn’t focus too much on likenesses besides with a headshot you need real good lighting and the lighting on those figures was overhead, from the sword. So I thought what the hell and just painted these figures without much concern for their likeness.”
Both also have Darth Vader’s image looming just behind them but a closer look reveals compositional differences, as well as texture and color variations that make their version truly unique. In the end, the Hildebrandt version is more pulp than adult fantasy and definitely more appealing to perhaps a younger audience. When the art was copied and sent to George Lucas for approval the very same day, the director only had two notes for the artists…
“When George saw the painting, he wanted us to add background characters. I suggested adding “the big hairy guy” but Lucas wanted to stick with the two droids from the Jung version. So we actually painted in the two droids at their studio in Manhattan the next day. Also, he wanted us to make our name bigger on the piece; he was trying to take advantage of our reputation at the time.”
So, after it was complete, Hildebrandt’s Style “B” poster would eventually be sent to Britain for the UK release of Star Wars on November 28, 1977. Their poster was used as a one sheet out front of theaters for advertising before being replaced by Tom Chantrell’s Style “C” version (pictured below) two months later, but not before 20th Century Fox would use Greg and Tim’s interpretation on tons of ancillary products. It was everywhere.
While Tim Hildebrandt sadly passed away in 2006, his brother Greg continues to work and carry on the legacy of the brothers Hildebrandt. To this day, Greg has never spoken to or met George Lucas even after having visited Skywalker Ranch…
“The movie poster got us the Topps “Shadows of the Empire” card set job some years later so we went to the ranch (Skywalker Ranch) and they showed us around, gave the grand tour, it was fantastic. At the end of the day, we were in the big conference room with everybody and we asked to meet George, but he wasn’t there at the time. So I’ve actually never met or spoken with George about any of the art we’ve done for him.”
So, after a lifetime of experience, Greg has challenged himself with recreating this piece in the same amount of time it took him and his brother to produce, 36 hours. It’s worth noting that although he has been asked many times over the years to recreate this piece, this painting is the first of its kind and likely the last. Interestingly enough, the idea came from his love of early cinema, particularly the monster movies from the first half of the 20th century…
“I came up with this “what if…” idea, and thought if I was a professional back in the day when I was a kid and going to the movies how would I paint the classic movie posters of the day. Arbitrarily I started with “The Creature from the Black Lagoon”, not because it’s my favorite movie but because I thought it would a good film to start with. And then next painted “King Kong” which was my favorite movie as a young guy in the 1950’s and actually got me interested in special effects and shooting 8 mm film. So I painted a 3-sheet, 86 inches tall, King Kong poster and it was during this process that got me thinking and looking back at stuff. It was then I got the idea about painting the Star Wars poster in the same 36 hours it took my brother and me to paint the original. Just this time it would be alone.”
While slightly smaller than the original, this 20x30 piece of art will make its first public appearance at this year’s New York Comic Con at the Spiderweb Art Gallery booth (1764). Greg himself will be on hand all weekend to be a part of this amazing occasion. Don’t get out your checkbooks just yet however as it’s not for sale at the event. That will happen later at the “Gotta Have Rock and Roll” November auction which you can get all the details by clicking HERE.
While he changed his approach this time around, using black canvas instead of traditional backing, one thing he didn’t change from the original was one of the characters featured in the painting is still missing finger. Can you spot which one?
For more information on this painting and all things Hildebrandt, visit www.spiderwebart.com.
For more information on this exhibit and all the other exciting things happening at New York Comic Con, click HERE.
Enjoy NYCC and MTFBWY.
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