Saturday, 1 September 2012


The original Emperor versus Luke art by McQuarrie.

Luke Skywalker has underestimated the power of this nightmare-ish red-eyed, bat-like Sith demon version of the Emperor, in this fantastic production painting by Ralph McQuarrie for RETURN OF THE JEDI. I'd like to know more about this piece of art and have often wondered if it may have been an overall conceptual idea for the Emperor when Ralph was involved in original pre-production for the film, perhaps abandoned or dropped when the artist left the movie, then came back to it when, on Lucas's request (circa 1983), he finished the eventually released official art portfolio.

That fine and beautiful tome THE ART OF RALPH McQUARRIE lists the above top image as a production painting, and also shows the revised version that appears in the portfolio (below), so I'll be intrigued to see how it eventually appears in behind the scenes history as part of the upcoming MAKING OF RETURN OF THE JEDI book from J.W. Rinzler...

The revised piece from the RETURN OF THE JEDI art portfolio. Image via RETRO STAR WARS FACEBOOK page.

Check out the official Ralph McQuarrie page here: Home - News

For more on the making of JEDI, don't forget our exhaustive coverage of the film from 2008, available on PDF in our back issues area: STAR WARS AFICIONADO ISSUE 14 - THE MAKING OF "RETURN OF THE JEDI"


John Scoleri said...

Ah, if I only knew then what I know now...

Those familiar with Ralph's art have always been aware of the Jedi paintings uniquely included images that were much more film-like (i.e. based on photo reference) rather than what appeared to be straight conceptual paintings.

When reviewing the Jedi images with Ralph for our book, he clarified that he created additional paintings to round out a portfolio, but it was not clear just how many there were. He did note instances such as the Emperor (and Vader's arrival, which originally included Luke and was changed to include an imperial officer) were changed as requested to make them more 'film-like', however it was not clear at the time whether those images were originally designed for the portfolio to begin with. He had mentioned that he set about completing those paintings in an attempt to give them his signature touch, rather than just reproducing the images as seen on film, but again, it wasn't clear just how many paintings he had been commissioned to complete.

In his recent post on the Star Wars blog, Jonathan Rinzler implies that there were in fact very few original production paintings by Ralph for Jedi. Combined with some documentation we've recently discovered amongst Ralph's papers, it sounds like the majority of his conceptual paintings for the film were those for the abandoned sequences where Vader takes Luke to (what would eventually become) Coruscant to meet the Emperor in his lava throne.

I imagine we'll have a better idea a year from now with the Making of ROTJ is published. But for now, I'm fairly confident saying that the early painting of the evil emperor was in fact a piece of licensed art commissioned for the portfolio (as opposed to production art).

John Scoleri
The Art of Ralph McQuarrie

aficionadofan said...

John, thank you very much for getting in touch about this. It's much appreciated. Looking forward to seeing Ralph's work rescanned anew and looking as beautiful as ever within THE MAKING OF RETURN OF THE JEDI next year. Best to you and all at DREAMS AND VISIONS PRESS.