On the key art for Star Wars (1977)

Tom Jung [left], Tim & Greg Hildebrandt [right]

“Jung’s finished paintings were well-received at Fox, with the staff christening the one-sheet ‘the Buck Rogers poster.’ Some at Lucasfilm, however, felt it might not work for an unknown film. ‘Too dark’ was Lippincott’s first reaction to the imagery. ‘The image was dark, the tone was dark, the title didn’t pop, and it didn’t tell you what the film was about. It didn’t grab you.’

Because Fox liked the ‘Buck Rogers’ poster, and because Lucasfilm wanted to explore other possibilities, Weitzner went back to Smolen, Smith, and Connolly for ideas. They hired twins Tim and Greg Hildebrandt, who were well-known fantasy artists at the time, to paint their own take on the Jung design. ‘The reason they called us is because Tim and I had just done the Lord of the Rings calendar, and we had a fan following,’ says Greg Hildebrandt.

With the deadline to compose newspaper ads just nine days away, the agency needed the artwork done in two. Gathering some stills and a photo of Jung’s concept from the agency in New York, the brothers raced back to their studio in New Jersey to start the painting. The only direction they were given was to make the image look ‘comic bookish.’

Greg Hildebrandt remembers the tag-team approach they used to complete the piece. ‘I grabbed my then-wife, threw a nightgown on her, and tore it in a few places to get that ‘Frazetta’ look,’ Hildebrandt says. ‘I had a friend throw on a bathrobe for Luke, then I took Polaroid photos, and Tim and I started to draw. By then it was around 8 p.m. We drew together until about midnight, then I went to sleep and Tim transferred what we had drawn to art board, painted for three or four hours, woke me up, and then I painted for awhile. We worked like that for thirty-six hours before we finished.’

Shortly after the painting was completed and photographed, the Hildebrandts were called in to do some touch up. The brothers had a suggestion. ‘We thought there should be more characters, especially in the space to the right of Luke,’ Greg Hildebrandt says. They asked if they could paint in C-3PO and R2-D2, and the studio approved. With a handful of acrylics, the brothers added the droids to the painting right there on the spot.”

— An excerpt from The Star Wars Poster Book