Hello again Reddit! The last AMA was a truly incredible experience (you even crashed my website!). Thank you all for the love and support. I hope you had as much fun as I did. I'm looking forward to getting to know more of you and answering more questions. You can see the first AMA here

A short list of my most favorite experiences are: *Being accepted to Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural school *Working with NASA to inform the public on the first unmanned space flights *Being Walter Cronkite's “Hal 9000” NASA connection during live broadcast of the first moon landing *Inventing the first real color monitor for Hewlett Packard *Writing my first book CoreFires - a labor of love 20 years in the making

I've worked on the following movies & shows: * Lead star ship designer for Star Wars - I drew the original designs for the X-Wing, A-Wing, Star Destroyer, TIE Fighter, & Rebel cruisers. I was also the one who designed and sculpted the Death Star and gave it it's trench * 2001, A Space Odyssey - I worked closely with Stanley Kubrick and persuaded him not to start the movie with a 20 minute conference table discussion * Buck Rogers in the 25th Century * Close Encounters of a Third Kind * War Games

I have a deep interest in science - especially quantum physics and space travel. I could not have picked a better time to have been born. So much has happened so quickly! Our dreams of space flight are maturing and I believe one day soon we’ll be exploring the next waiting wonders of our galaxy.

My latest project is a book series called CoreFires. It is free for today and anyone who leaves an Amazon review will be entered to win either a signed copy of the book or a signed print of my original Star Wars ship designs (your choice). 3 Winners will be chosen. Sign up here to enter

You can see my original Pre-Star Wars artwork here

A special thanks to https://www.createbook.org for helping me self publish my book. I highly recommend them to any authors who want help getting self published.

I hope that's enough to get us started. AMA!

It has just come to my attention that Carrie Fisher passed away today after her heart attack several days ago. I'm sure you will join me in sending our sincerest condolences to her family and loved ones

My Proof: http://i1079.photobucket.com/albums/w514/poker467/PC1921641_zpselvugno2.jpg

Comments: 1235 • Responses: 69  • Date: 

roboterkampf3173 karma

I have one more question - would you be open to attending the largest gathering of sci-fi model builders, at Wonderfest in Louisville Kentucky, in early June? It will be a celebration of everything, but also a specific showcase of the Star Wars 40th anniversary.

I think I speak for all the fellas when I say we would love to have you attend and show you what we have made, inspired by your designs!

Colin_Cantwell_AMA3005 karma

Send me your email and we can talk.

AgoraiosBum2716 karma

As lead designer of the Death Star, do you ever worry about potential Rebel Alliance assassins?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA2361 karma

All the time!!

arhanv1300 karma

Wow, your résumé is crazy! What was it like working with Stanley Kubrick?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA1628 karma

Way beyond crazy. Way into genius territory 24/7

squopmobile1061 karma

Hi! So, did the trench run finale actually come about because of your design?! Did you meet Carrie Fisher?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA1567 karma

I did not meet Carrie. The trench was my idea... thereby the action scenes

bluman855999 karma

Hi, just wanted to ask a small question about the Star Destroyers. Did you include any turrets on the model, or did you omit them because they were too small to put on such a large ship? I can't help but notice in the movies that the lasers come out of seemingly nowhere on the ships.

Colin_Cantwell_AMA1307 karma

You are very perceptive.

Bynirn847 karma

Did you ever think Star Wars would get as big as it is today?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA1299 karma

I knew that the opening scenes had to be exceptionally successful, but little did I foresee the outcome.

roboterkampf757 karma

Hello Mr. Cantwell, I know these are probably going to be too specific and a little focused, but can I ask some model related questions, as it might help a small gang of builders replicate your builds? My first question is, what inspired you to use 5 dram pill bottles on so many of the Star Wars designs? They pop up in almost every build you made. Were they readily available/cylindrical shapes?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA849 karma

You bet... they were readily available, a drawer full!!.

arhanv668 karma

What do you think about the large influx of CGI use in recent films? Do you think there's some level of authenticity that can't be achieved with digital renders as opposed to physical miniature props?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA1236 karma

CGI has come a long way. Hands on for me is my kind of fun. But I was a pioneer in CGI as well.

Leolele99622 karma

Thanks for doing an AMA. So I just want to know, what ship you designed changed the most from the first idea to the final model? Oh and what do you think about the newer ships in the SW franchise that are based on your ideas?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA997 karma

The Millennium Falcon was originally designed in a lizzard shape. We learned that another film had created a similar design, so it was immediately modified into its final form.

DemikGold310 karma

Hi Colin, hope you get to this. If you've seen Rouge one the Death Star is a big part again. Do you think the team did a good job at portraying the intensity of what you were going for with your initial creation of it? Also, was it originally designed to run off Kyber crystal?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA496 karma

I think they did a good job with the Death Star. The plans were secret.

Claydough89286 karma

Do you find it difficult to create artwork that looks unique for each different project you work on?

Also your "sign up here to enter" link doesnt work

Colin_Cantwell_AMA334 karma

No, my mind is always ready to hunt for something new instead of repeating. We'll fix the link in a few minutes.. Thanks for the heads up

SpawnlingMan256 karma

Hi Colin! Thank you for doing this. Were you approached by Disney to work on the new films?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA371 karma

Not by Disney

roboterkampf211 karma

I have seen pictures of the Y-Wing you made with a WWII fighter cockpit for a canopy, which was later changed to the squared styrene one that it has now, and which was painted by McQuarrie. Did you often meet with George Lucas while building the models, and how often were you asked to modify or change a build?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA290 karma

I met with him to ask mostly about the role of the ship storywise. A lot to begin with and less frequently as time went on. He seldom made suggestions on design changes.

gruntothesmitey204 karma

Hi, impressive resume! What were your inspirations behind the various Star Wars designs? Did Lucas already have an idea in mind for each, did he just say something like "Go talk to McQuarrie and ask to see his paintings", or did he let you come up with whatever you wanted to come up with?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA223 karma

Some had individual inspirations, too long to go into detail for all of them. All were from my mind.

BogusProfiterole182 karma

Ooh, hello Sir, congratulations and thank you for your amazing work! I'd love to see you team up with Dr Michio Kaku - what a dream team that would be! Have you got a ticket for a commercial space flight? Who'd be your dream team to go to space with?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA311 karma

i did significant flying while lying in bed with tuberculosis as a child. No ticket yet, but Stephen Hawiking would be a REAL TRIP.

janekenstein163 karma

Hey, Colin, thanks for doing another AMA! The last one was really interesting! My husband and I are both huge Star Wars fans, and we both have our different favorite ships (mine being the TIE Fighter). Do you have a favorite? Or is it impossible to choose because they're your creations?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA198 karma

Looking back on it, the ones that created the most important scenes won out. May both of you create favorites that light up your audiences.

6562162 karma

Was the design of the Imperial Star Destroyer (triangle) directly affected by the need to provide an impact in the opening scene? Thank you!

Edit: Imperial Star Destroyer since I am a dummy.

Colin_Cantwell_AMA240 karma

Very strongly. That opening series of scenes had to work for the film to succeed.

MyNameIsSwish121 karma

Has anyone ever said you look like a white Snoop Dogg?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA256 karma

Now, somone has.

AmericaGreat98 karma

Why are the TIE Fighters so different from the various rebel craft?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA239 karma

I wanted them each to be evil and "instantly" identified on the screen.

ADIDASects92 karma

Was there ever any discussion about the death star's propulsion? Watching the old and most recent film, I thought it might be the most cavalier thing of all to not acknowledge what it would take to move an object of that size and shape through space. So was that ever discussed in relation to it's appearance?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA175 karma

Not by me. I thought it more mysterious without detailed explaination.

Hamsternoir75 karma

Do you have an idea how the Core Fires series is going to pan out or are you just making it up as you go along? And how far have you got with the sequel?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA91 karma

CoreFires Two is complete and will be out before the end of 2017.

mimw73 karma

Hi Colin,

I currently work for NASA and I was wondering, with Mars on the horizon do you think that traveling to Mars will be covered in the news outlets as much as the Moon landings?

If you had the chance, would you like to cover the Mars landing?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA124 karma

Hopefully it would be more accurate than the cover image of National Geographic which swapped the lowest terrains with the highest. Yes I would like to cover the Mars landing.

saladin68868 karma

Mr. Cantwell, I've never heard about Kubrick wanting a conference table discussion scene for the opening of 2001. Could you talk a little bit about why he wanted it and how and why you persuaded him to go in a different direction? Thanks for doing this AMA.

Colin_Cantwell_AMA86 karma

The conference room scene he proposed while the audience was being seated was a real drag. To me, far more important to begin and then at the end, to feel the majesty of the story.

3O7QQP57 karma

Hello Colin, which current real life technology are you most excited about?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA119 karma

Biologic co-evolution and advancing intelligence.

Kataclysm53 karma

So having worked with NASA during the broadcast of the first moon landing; what exactly were you doing during that time, and what are your feelings about those people among us who say it was a staged event? (I for one know we landed on the moon, but I have met others who swear we didn't)

Colin_Cantwell_AMA132 karma

I was sitting behind Walter Cronkite and known as the "Hal 9000 Computer". During his broadcast I was listening to NASA and feeding Walter the information he was broadcasting on live TV.
As far as skeptics, give me their names and I'll sell them the London Bridge.

whosthebigwinner52 karma

What are your thoughts on Elon Musk?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA94 karma

He's an amazing visionary

BagofCereal51 karma

As a young adult trying to make it in the film industry in LA, where should I start and what should I avoid? Thank you!

Colin_Cantwell_AMA155 karma

Sorry. I started in architecture and NASA projects. I really don't know what it would take to get into the film industry today.

Stevenevetss47 karma

What was your favorite part about working on Star Wars?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA108 karma

The creativity of working with Lucas

FarwellRob45 karma

One thing that really disappointed me about the newest Star Wars movie is that the Star Destroyers were simply too clean. They looked like plastic models instead of battleships that had been in use.

After you came up with your designs, were you in charge of painting them or did others do the finishing detail work?

Thanks for making my childhood a much richer experience!

Colin_Cantwell_AMA48 karma

I painted the original ship, then others took over for the final model

rerumedax38 karma

Thanks for all your great work.

What specific shots did you work on in 2001? (A description in words or DVD or Blu-ray timings are fine.)

How much guidance did Kubrick give you, how much did he explain or describe what he wanted? Did he give you general or specific instructions? Did he look at your work in progress and say "No, try again--experiment, surprise me" or "No, I will tell you exactly what I want it to look like ..."?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA75 karma

I designed the opening one minute and many of the space scenes. I worked very closely with Stanley. We met nightly to discuss different scenes and the special effects. He would give me guidance during space dailies.

and the rest of the music except the "Blue Danube"

roboterkampf35 karma

We also have noticed (to the dismay of our wallets) that you used multiples of kits in single builds, or even scattered across designs over all. For example, you used at least 8 Revell Gemini/Mercury kits. So at the time, were these inexpensive enough that you just purchased stacks of the same kit because you knew it would provide you with multiple pieces for pattern replication in your designs, or did you purchase single sprues from the kit makers as ILM some times did (for the same reason - guaranteed multiples of similar pieces)?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA90 karma

I dismembered kits, storing the best parts in a six foot high and 8 foot wide wall of drawers. From thereon it was as the spirit moved me. I shopped in poorer sections of town where the boxes were already opened, and then I purchased the kits with the best parts. THE FIRST TIME THE SALES LADY ASKED IF I WAS GOING TO OPEN A STORE.

dragons534 karma

How did you land these awesome jobs? Talk about a dream come true.

Colin_Cantwell_AMA51 karma

Based on the work I had previously done, many of these jobs were referred to me by others.

klaqua34 karma

In light of Carrie Fishers passing, do you have a personal memory oft her?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA88 karma

She was an important part of the film, but I never had the opportunity to meet her. Very sad that she is gone.

Drewapalooza29 karma

Incredible, thank you for all you've done Mr. Cantwell. It must be so great seeing your creations still used in movies and marketed everywhere.


What is your take on the direction NASA is going with mars? What was the general feeling around the country after the reporting of the moon landing? That would've been amazing to experience.

Colin_Cantwell_AMA32 karma

I await more and more progress by NASA relevant to human co-evolution.
I was smack dab in the middle but still on earth. Everyone was pretty excited.

roboterkampf27 karma

There is a design you created that has the pill bottles as engines in a large "X" configuration in the rear, and two long threaded rods that terminate in a tank chassis that serves as the "head" of the ship. Is this the original prototype for the "Princesses Ship" and NOT a second "Pirate Ship" model? (The Pirate Ship has two large model kit motors at the rear for engines, and the plastic cup for a cockpit. )


Colin_Cantwell_AMA21 karma

I'm not exactly sure to which ship you are referring. Where did you see this?

ben_simi26 karma

Thanks for the AMA! Huge fan. How do you feel the modern Star Wars movies i.e. The force awakens and Rogue 1 compare with the original trilogy? Thanks!

Colin_Cantwell_AMA46 karma

I really enjoyed seeing the new story tellng in both.

HurricaneHalien21 karma

Hey! We are friends on Facebook and I saw that you would be doing an AMA. My question is this: how many revisions did the original ships go through before they came up with the end product that we all saw in the movies?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA24 karma

One in most cases for the original movie.

Darthhammer20 karma

Hi Colin, I understand the millennium falcon design was a collaborative effort- what parts of the ship we're your concepts? I've always thought the dish was your idea but was interested if any thing else was.

Colin_Cantwell_AMA23 karma

The turret survived the re-invention of the millennium falcon from my original lizzard design.

an_evil_eskimo19 karma

What inspired your design for the Death Star?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA66 karma

The Death Star was a sphere because objects needed to be able to fly around it and attack it from all sides. When the two plastic hemispheres arrived, I had to invent a way to use them without revealing their equitorial flaws.. Hence the trench.

atetrack9818 karma

Hello Colin! Did you have any involvement with Rouge One? If not, have you seen it, and what did you think about the new starships designed for the movie?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA30 karma

No I was not involved, but enjoyed the ships a lot.

The_Bohammer17 karma

What's your favorite small scale project? Any smaller movie collaborations your particularly proud of?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA33 karma

My last architectural design submitted to Frank Lloyd Wright before he died. Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

AthasDuneWalker15 karma

What was the most used model kit while kitbashing the ships together?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA22 karma

I had 200 drawers of kit parts, and most of my decisions were spur of the moment.

khendron14 karma

Hello Mr. Cantwell! You designed so many of the iconic images of our time. But have you ever looked back at something you designed and wished, despite its popularity, that you had done it differently?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA30 karma

Well ... hardly ever

roboterkampf13 karma

Do you still have those two large wonderful models that Jason Debord showed in his interviews with you? It was fascinating to see them, as they seem to be spiritual cousins to the Star Wars models you designed. We see many of the same parts used (the large howitzer used on your Sandcrawler for example). Do you also have any "raw parts" left or did those all sell at auction?

And did you take any reference photos of the models that have not come to light yet? There are many parts that have been knocked off over the past 40 years (like the "skis" and "pitot tubes" on the Skyhopper) and it is always thrilling to see what is missing.

Colin_Cantwell_AMA26 karma

Sorry, everything was sold at auction. I don't have any photos of any of my models, but lots of memories.

dieggs9811 karma

Hi Mr. Cantwell, thank you for providing our childhoods with amazing space ships and dreams of space travel! I was wondering, what was your reaction was to the Spacex landing of the Model 9 booster rocket and what do you think is our next step is in taking the first person to Mars?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA16 karma

I was pleased to learn of the landing and I'll leave the next Mars steps to the experts

weedfreer10 karma

why did the original tapes of the moon landing end up in a dusty box under someone's desk...how come nobody saw these items as important historical documentation?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA20 karma

Believe me, I'm not the one to ask

thethirdgirlonreddit9 karma

Hello, Mr. Cantwell! Thank you so much for doing this AMA. I'm here with a friend of mine, and we're both huge Star Wars fans. I have a question for you, if you have the time!

I've heard that there was some footage found of the original movies that was then used in Rogue One. Was any of your work used in that footage, or in any other form in Rogue One?

It's super neat to see you here: I'm someone who has amateur interest in prop making and set design, and I'm enjoying getting to know your influence in the Star Wars we all know!

Colin_Cantwell_AMA15 karma

There may have been footage, but I was not aware of it.

UNSC_Luke_10218 karma

How do you feel about Carrie Fisher, 'Princess Leia', passing away?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA22 karma

Sure sorry to hear that. She will always be appreciated.

Homeyjosey8 karma

As a manufacturing/design engineer myself, how do I get into the movie/tv industry? What job positions should I look for?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA17 karma

I did it by focusing on special effects.

bkim93247 karma

Have you heard about pc game 'Star Citizen'? it's made by Chris Roberts who is maker of Wing Commander series. What do you think of its ship design?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA5 karma

Sorry, I have not seen this.

Financial_Ostap7 karma

Do you have something to say to moon landing deniers to shut them up for good?

If you're unfamiliar, they claim that astronauts only went to space and back. They claim moon landing was filmed on earth. And they claim that photos taken show proof of earthlike conditions.

You don't have to adress all of the above, but please let me know how being the CBS lead analyst for the moon landing makes you confident that it did happen.

Colin_Cantwell_AMA20 karma

I was practically there. It would be pretty hard to fake the Apollo 11 lift off with millions watching. The fake landing story was started by a friend of mine as a joke. It grew from there.

KillroysGhost5 karma

Hello Mr. Cantwell thank you for your contributions to cinematic history as well as modern technology. Coincidentally, I am currently browsing Reddit while watching 2001: A Space Odyssey, and stumbled upon your AMA.

Here's my question: in space movies like Alien, the ships are cramped and dark which sets the tone of the film. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, it's the opposite, all white and clean, despite HAL basically murdering most of the crew, also very unsettling.

How much care do you put into designing the interior of spaceships as opposed to the exterior in relation to the tone the scenes convey? Was the Death Star and Star Destroyers mostly black and grey because they represented the villain or for movie military reasons?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA5 karma

In Star Wars, next to none because those scenes had to have evil people and scared good people doing their thing. In 2001 the interiors were designed to work as sets with all their special requirements. I did not design any sets.

Lus_3 karma

Mr. Cantwell, have you been ispired for the Star Destroyer design shape, by a slice of pizza, do not you?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA4 karma

No, but several layers of carefully nested re-sized pizza

deanfwilson3 karma

What's your favourite starship design?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA9 karma

The Firebird in my book CoreFires

Lonelan3 karma

Do you regret building such an obvious design flaw into the first Death Star?

Did they replace you when they made the second Death Star?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA3 karma

No regrets, but they did hire someone else for the second Death Star.. Ha

dizzley2 karma

In 2001 A Space Odyssey, were there any compromises in design for the shuttle into orbit or Discovery One, or were you and Stanley Kubrick happy with what was created?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA3 karma

We were happy

shot_thesheriff2 karma

Hi there, 2 questions? 1. Did you really not think the rebels wouldn't find the port that you shoot missiles into causing the death star to explode or is it something you completely missed while designing it? 2. In your opinion, is there even a remote possibility that the moon landing was faked?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA3 karma

Without the port, what would the movie be? See about about Moon landing.

Dr_Chausable2 karma

Gettings, I have two questions:

  1. Why did Kubrick want to start 2001 with a conference table discussion, what was it going to be about?

  2. What was the most challenging thing you had to design for a movie?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA5 karma

To fill time while people were seating themselves.

The 3D elevations of the first Mars landing areas by reconstructing the sun angles and topography for freely moving close-up cameras. This was for the San Diego Space Museum Omnimax in which I managed the very first film project.

don_canicas2 karma

there is a mini Transamerica piramid somewhere in one of the miniature models, my friend's don't believe me. Can you confirm if one is /isn't there?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA4 karma


geedarnoc2 karma

How does the battleship destroyer's docking bay stay open while keeping the bay pressurized and oxygenized?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA3 karma

They close the ports, enter the docking bay, fill the bay with air, open the ports

Jygantic1 karma

Hey there! Thanks for doing an AMA. I have always wondered what you think of ship designs in modern sci-fi films, and why you think they aren't generally anywhere near as iconic as those in Star Wars, 2001 etc. (which happens to be your work)? What could ship designers now change to make sure they have more creative designs, and why do you think designs are so bland nowadays?

Colin_Cantwell_AMA2 karma

I haven't seen many of the newer films, so I'm a bad example