Colin Cantwell, designer of the X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and other iconic spaceships, has died

Image for Colin Cantwell, designer of the X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and other iconic spaceships, has died
(Image credit: Jerod Harris/WireImage - Getty Images)

Colin Cantwell, lead starship designer for Star Wars and CBS analyst for the moon landing, has died. His partner, Sierra Dall, confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab) that he died at home in Colorado on Saturday.

Cantwell worked with George Lucas to draw and build prototypes for various Star Wars spacecraft, creating memorable designs that would continue being featured in subsequent movies and games. His designs include the TIE Fighter, X-Wing, Y-Wing, Tantive IV, sandcrawler, landspeeder, and Death Star.

Cantwell also worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and WarGames, for which he created the computer graphics dramatizing a nuclear launch that would later inspire DEFCON (opens in new tab).

Before his career in Hollywood, Cantwell had worked for NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on educational programs, which is how he ended up becoming CBS's lead analyst for the broadcast of the moon landing. It was Cantwell's job to handle communications between NASA and news anchor Walter Cronkite.

In a Reddit AMA (opens in new tab) from 2016, Cantwell recalled the creation of the Death Star. "I didn't originally plan for the Death Star to have a trench," he wrote, "but when I was working with the mold, I noticed the two halves had shrunk at the point where they met across the middle. It would have taken a week of work just to fill and sand and re-fill this depression. So, to save me the labor, I went to George and suggested a trench. He liked the idea so much that it became one of the most iconic moments in the film!" 

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games (opens in new tab). He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun (opens in new tab), The Big Issue, GamesRadar (opens in new tab), Zam (opens in new tab), Glixel (opens in new tab), Five Out of Ten Magazine (opens in new tab), and (opens in new tab), whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.