For the price of a brand-new landspeeder — assuming, that is, that a landspeeder would cost about the same as your entry-level Honda Accord or Toyota Camry — you could have walked away this weekend with a rare, early draft of the Roger Kastel-designed Empire Strikes Back poster that graced theaters when the Irvin Kershner-directed Star Wars sequel debuted in 1980, proving beyond a doubt that George Lucas’ mythic sci-fi saga had true staying power.
Heritage Auctions revealed that an anonymous pop culture aficionado paid a cool $26,400 for Kastel’s early draft of the poster at a Dallas auction Sunday, setting a new record “as the most expensive movie poster from the space opera ever sold at auction,” according to a release.
As with so many cinematic artifacts, the story behind the poster carries its own deep ties to Hollywood history. Kastel based his design, which features Han Solo and Princess Leia in a classic dip embrace, from the 1974 re-release poster for Gone with the Wind, which depicted a close-up of Clark Gable carrying Vivien Leigh through the movie’s Atlanta-burning flames.
Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox eventually settled on a different color palette for the final version of the Empire poster, losing Kastel’s orange and red elements in favor of the final version’s ominously violet-tinged effect. Cloud City on the left, as well as Lando Calrissian and Boba Fett, visible at the lower right alongside one of the Hoth rebels’ light laser cannons, also didn’t make the final cut.
While $26,400 is a lot of scratch, it doesn’t scratch the surface of what the well-heeled are willing to pay when the bidding really starts to heat up. Last year, another Dallas-based Heritage auction saw a poster from Bela Lugosi’s 1931 Dracula sell for $525,800 — the most money anyone’s ever parted with to own a movie poster.