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Report: Award-winning Star Wars costume designer passes away at 86

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Dec 18, 2018, 8:00 PM EST (Updated)

The galaxy far, far away and the ones who adore it so owe a great debt of gratitude to John Mollo, the British costume designer who has died at the age of 86, reports The Times of London. Having worked on the first two movies in the original trilogy—A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back—Mollo created some of the most recognizable outfits in cinematic history, including the ones for Darth Vader, Princess Leia, and Han Solo. Despite no credits on Return of the Jedi, any of the prequels, or the Disney-revived sequels, Mollo’s designs in 1977 set the stage for every entry in the Star Wars universe since then, which also includes the animated shows like Rebels and the upcoming Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

Mollo used real-world inspirations for his costumes to help tell George Lucas’ epic space opera about the struggle between good and evil. For instance, Luke Skywalker’s white outfit we first see him wearing on Tatooine was meant to make him look like a Jedi monk; The clothes worn by Han and other good guys were drawn from the cowboys of the American Wild West; Leia’s white cassock conveyed the aesthetic of virginal purity; and the helmet worn by Vader was similar to the ones worn by the Nazis during World War II, thus giving the Empire heavy fascist overtones. However, this wasn’t a surprising choice for Mollo, who was interested in both American and European military dress from a young age. He even wrote several books on the subject of the American, British, and Russian army uniforms.

His passionate work paid off, and Mollo was awarded the Oscar for Best Costume Design at the 1978 Academy Awards. Prior to the announcement of the winner, the costumes for Vader, Leia, and the stormtroopers were displayed onstage while John Williams' "Cantina Band" theme played overhead. While accepting the award, he had this to say:

“As you see, the costumes from Star Wars are really not so much costumes as a bit of plumbing and general automobile engineering. My thanks to George and Gary and particularly to the wardrobe department, especially Rob Beck, and to all of you for giving me this very happy tribute. Thank you very much.”


Mollo’s work extended to other science fiction and award-winning films such as Ridley Scott’s Alien in 1979 and Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi in 1982, for which he won his second Oscar (incidentally, Attenborough’s movie also beat Steven Spielberg’s E.T. for Best Picture at that year's Oscars), and Paul W.S. Anderson’s sci-fi cult favorite Event Horizon in 1997.

After hearing about his passing, Star Wars fans and actors alike took to social media to show their admiration for the accomplished costume designer by including pictures of his sketches and realized designs.