A Tribute to J.W. Rinzler, Who Took Us Inside the Making of the ‘Star Wars’ Saga
J.W. Rinzler passed away on July 28th after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was a singular force in giving Star Wars fans insight into the production of the saga, and his contribution to the cultural understanding of a galaxy far, far away is as essential as any of those involved in the production.
Jonathan W. Rinzler is well known to Star Wars fans who have even the slightest interest in how the movies came together. An author and an editor at Lucasfilm/LucasBooks, Rinzler became instrumental in documenting the conclusion of the prequel trilogy with a pair of keystone books: The Art of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and The Making Of Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith.
He was present on set for the filming of the movie and had a unique insight into its production. His eye for detail and unfettered access resulted in a book that was celebratory of the production but also honest. That appreciation for detail led to his writing The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film in 2007.
The coffee table book remains very popular to this day and spawned additional volumes covering The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and eventually, Raiders Of The Lost Ark. The Making of Return of the Jedi includes a transcript of a story session with George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan, and Richard Marquand, which is illuminating in how different the movie could have been.
These books are a treasure trove for any fan curious about how the saga came together. For fans with creative ambitions, either in film or in other media, they’re essential. Star Wars is a diversion, it’s entertainment, but it’s also the story of the evolution of craft in film storytelling. It’s the story of story, and how the saga became a blueprint for movies for good and for bad.
The only real substitute for ‘being there’ outside of the documentaries about the movies are these comprehensive books that completely immerse the reader. They’re a testament to Rinzler’s skill not just as an editor, assembling a galaxy of material for the books, but also as a writer and archivist.
Rinzler was credited as a writer for a pair of episodes from The Clone Wars in 2014, “The Disappeared, Part I” and “The Disappeared, Part II.” He was also a novelist, with his novel All Up debuting in 2020. He was an editor on numerous guides and books for Star Wars, including essentially every Visual Guide and Cross-Sections title prior to the sequel trilogy.
J.W. Rinzler was a fantastic writer and resource, and a great person. He was a guest on The Resistance Broadcast on two occasions, providing even more insight into his time at LucasBooks and the behind-the-scenes saga of Star Wars. The first was to discuss the making of the saga in general and the second was to talk about the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back.
His name will always be associated with Star Wars as new fans discover the history of the saga, and deservedly so. His final book is available now, called Howard Kazanjian: A Producer’s Life — From Hitchcock and Peckinpah to Spielberg and Lucas, 50 Years of Collaboration.
To honor J.W. Rinzler, at his family’s request for remembrances going forward, please make a donation to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
LINK TO DONATE: http://pancan.org
JW RINZLER BOOKS: http://jwrinzler.com
Rest in peace, Jonathan Rinzler.
Darby Harn is a contributor for Screenrant, CBR.com, Star Wars News Net, and Movie News Net. He is the author of the sci-fi superhero novel EVER THE HERO. His short fiction appears in Strange Horizons, Interzone, Shimmer, and other venues.