Star Wars legend Ralph McQuarrie passes away

The artist who helped make George Lucas' sci-fi smash a reality dies at the age of 82

Ralph McQuarrie, the artist who first visualised an array of iconic Star Wars characters including Luke Skywalker, R2-D2, Darth Vader, C-3PO and Chewbacca died on March 3, due to complications from Parkinson's disease.

McQuarrie's concept art for the original film was instrumental in helping Lucas sell his pitch for the movie to the executives at 20th Century Fox. In many ways he was as instrumental to the look and feel of the finished film as H.R. Giger was to Alien. McQuarrie subsequently produced concept art for both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Cocoon, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Nightbreed.

In a statement released online, George Lucas said, 'Ralph McQuarrie was the first person I hired to help me envision Star Wars. His genial contribution, in the form of unequalled production paintings, propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy. When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph's fabulous illustrations and say, "Do it like this".'