The Making of the Star Wars Poster with Greg Hildebrandt
Greg Hildebrandt is a famous artist and illustrator most well known for his work on the very first Star Wars poster. I got to talk with him last month about how he got his start and how he and his brother came up with the original Star Wars poster.
Carl: I’m here at Garden State Comic Fest with artist Greg Hildebrandt. I’d like to ask you a few questions for my readers.
Did you want to become an artist when you were a kid?
Greg Hildebrandt: Absolutely, I always was an artist. I can’t remember doing anything else other than art.
Carl: Cool! Who were some of your favorite artists when you were a kid?
Greg Hildebrandt: Well, I was a big fan of the comic strip artists when I was growing up, like Alex Raymond, he drew Flash Gordon, and Hal Foster drew Prince Valiant and Milt Caniff did Terry & the Pirates. They were some of my favorite artists, along with most of the Disney artists that made films that I loved so much, like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio and Bambi and Dumbo. Those were my favorite artists.
Carl: What made you interested in making movie posters?
Greg Hildebrandt: That’s a good question. I approached it like I do any illustration. In this particular case, where I did the Star Wars poster, I talked it over with the advertising agency that were handling this particular account, and we discussed the whole job and they gave us – Tim and myself, I had a twin brother, we worked together – and gave us a bunch of photos and we came up with the particular layout. I mean, it’s about understanding composition, which applies for all illustration and all art. So it’s basically the same principle that applies to a movie poster that applies to any other painting I might do.
Carl: Everyone knows you and your brother* painted the original Star Wars movie poster. Did you get to see the movie before it came out so you could make the poster?
(*I misspoke and just said “your brother” – Sorry Mr. Hildebrandt!)
Greg Hildebrandt: No. My brother and myself painted the poster. We didn’t see the movie at all. Like I said, advertising agencies handle accounts of studios to do the posters. So the studio that we went to, we had done work for them once before and we were very, very fast. We painted a picture overnight for them once. In this case for Star Wars they contacted my brother and myself, because the director of the film, George Lucas, didn’t like the poster that he had – and I never saw the poster – but he didn’t like the one that he had, so he wanted a new poster painted and these two gentlemen that ran the advertising agency, remember my brother and myself painting a picture overnight, called us, and said, “You guys have to help us, because we need a picture painted real fast!” So we went into their studio, they showed us a lot of photographs out of the movie, and we came up with the whole composition right there with them. And then went home and painted it. So that’s how that worked.
Carl: How did you decide what style to make it?
Greg Hildebrandt: I didn’t really think about style so much. I think the directive that we got from the men at the agency that George Lucas wanted, he said he wanted a poster that looked “comic booky”. Now, what that meant – it’s very vague – what would you think that that would mean? My brother and myself thought, what does that mean? Maybe he’s thinking of making the girl look more like a Frank Frazetta character. So Tim and I took that as a kind of guide and used that thought in our minds to make the figures look that way in the painting. And then painted the picture.
Carl: Cool! One last question: Are you having fun at the show?
Greg Hildebrandt: Extremely! A lot of fun! Are you?
Greg Hildebrandt: Great!
Carl: Thank you for answering my questions. It was nice to see you again.
Greg Hildebrandt: Nice to see you again! You’re welcome!