The design of the villains from the original Star Wars trilogy - from Darth Vader
to the Emperor
to the Stormtroopers
- came to become icons for evil itself in popular culture. When it came time to design Darth Maul
, the major new villain in The Phantom Menace, the concept artists of Episode I had a tough act to follow.
Episode I Concept Designer Iain McCaig recalled the daunting task. "George Lucas had described Darth Maul as a figure from your worst nightmare. So... I drew George my worst nightmare."
"At the time, my worst nightmare was this," McCaig confides. "I'm inside a room during a thunderstorm. The hours pass by and I suddenly become aware that there's a lifeless face pressed against the window. It's dead, but it's alive, staring at me through the rain. I drew something like that for George--adding metal teeth...and blood red ribbons falling over the face instead of rain. When George saw it, he quickly turned the drawing over. "Okay," he said, "Now draw me your second worst nightmare...'"
That happened to be clowns, but we'll come back to that.
Because Episode I had a full three years of pre-production, an almost unheard of length of time for a feature film, McCaig spent a lot of time drawing masks trying to compete with the original design for Darth Vader by Ralph McQuarrie. "What Ralph came up with was perfect," McCaig said. "Part skull. Part Nazi helmet. I tried everything I could think of to better it before eventually throwing in the towel."
The breakthrough for Maul came when McCaig began trying to turn other members of the Episode I Art Department into Sith Lords. "That's really where my character designs come from-personalities, and not just ideas dropped on top of a generic somebody," McCaig smiled. "So I took David Dozoretz, the head of our animatics group, and I drew him with this incredible mask, and all you saw were his eyes poking through. Just for the heck of it, because I wanted David to see his own face, I included a picture beside it with the mask off. Because it was David, I put a circuit board on this face."
When Lucas saw the drawing, he was intrigued by the circuit board idea. McCaig continued along those lines, conscripting the likeness of Episode I's production photographer, Greg Gawlowski, peeling pieces out of him like he was a pumpkin. "It's always a balancing act" McCaig recalls. "Greg is such a soft-spoken, gentle soul that he was the perfect foil for the Sith's evil. I put a glowing orange light inside him," McCaig recalls, "and George liked that even more."
McCaig's next "victim" was Production Designer Gavin Bocquet whom McCaig said, "has a sweet face - but can look quite evil if you get him in the right light." McCaig struggled with the illustration, but didn't want to give up on it. "There was white-out all over it. There was marker on top of the white-out. I got a knife and carved into it, and finally when I was done...I hated it. With pieces of tape I eliminated everything that wasn't working...and was left with a kind of Rorschach pattern on his face. And that DID work. And I knew. When you've got a drawing and you've found it...a little light comes on. So I showed that to George, and he felt the same way. We were on the right track at last.