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Colin Cantwell, designer of ‘Star Wars’ Death Star, dies aged 90

<i>Lucasfilm/Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock</i><br/>A shot of the Death Star in
A shot of the Death Star in "Return Of The Jedi" (1983)

Toyin Owoseje, CNN

Colin Cantwell, the visual effects artist behind many of the iconic spacecraft in the original “Star Wars” movie, has died at the age of 90.

In an announcement on his Facebook page Sunday, Cantwell’s partner, Sierra Dall, said he died on Saturday at his home in Colorado.

“Colin Cantwell passed away peacefully at his home with me by his side. I will miss him greatly,” she wrote.

Tributes flooded in from fans and celebrities, including “Curb Your Enthusiasm” director David Mandel, who showed off an early X-Wing illustration from his own collection on Twitter.

Cantwell was best known for designing and constructing prototypes of the X-Wing, Star Destroyer, TIE Fighter, Death Star and other ships for “Star Wars: A New Hope,” the first movie in the blockbuster sci-fi franchise.

According to his website, he designed the spaceships used in the 1977 movie two years earlier, building the models and photographing them when they were completed.

Cantwell’s website also noted that he was UCLA’s first animation graduate, after persuading the university to add an animation major.

Before Hollywood came calling he fulfilled his childhood passion for space by working at NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, creating educational programs on recent developments in space exploration.

While at NASA he fed CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite updates about the astronauts’ progress during the 1969 moon landing, which Cronkite then relayed to the TV audience.

Away from the “Star Wars” franchise, Cantwell’s big-screen contributions include special photographic effects for “2001: A Space Odyssey,” technical dialogue for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and computer graphics design consultant for “WarGames.”

In 2014, an auction of some of his personal “Star Wars” artifacts, including some spacecraft designs, raised more than $118,000, the Denver Post reported.

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