A fabled piece of Star Wars history that was lost for decades has resurfaced, and is now the crown jewel of an upcoming auction.
An original 20-inch model of an X-wing starfighter used in the climatic space battle in 1977’s Star Wars — believed to be the so-called “missing X-wing” — is part of the collection of late Oscar nominated modelmaker Greg Jein. It will be sold at a Heritage Auction on Oct. 14-15 in Dallas, and the bidding for the X-wing starts at $400,000.
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Built by Industrial Light & Magic for Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, the “Red Leader” (Red One) X-wing is one of just four “hero” filming miniatures with articulating servo-controlled wings and lights, according to the auction description. Hero models were built for close-ups and used in the final battle, including the trench run.
“This model has not been displayed or modified since it left ILM,” VFX historian Gene Kozicki tells The Hollywood Reporter. “For those of us that grew up in the ’70s or ’80s, and those of us that work in visual effects, this model is as significant a find as the ruby red slippers or the Maltese Falcon.”
It’s also notable as it’s been part of visual effects folklore. Kozicki notes there were stories of hero models that were unaccounted for when ILM moved north to the San Francisco Bay Area from California’s San Fernando Valley in 1978.
“We never could confirm anything. It became something of a mythical ‘white whale’ — the missing Star Wars X-wing,” says Kozicki, who was one of a handful of VFX vets who made the discovery while helping Jein’s family to catalog the late VFX pro’s collection.
Kozicki says that he, along with ILM VFX supervisor Bill George, modelmaker and Jein co-worker Lou Zutavern and Jein’s friend Rob McFalane discovered it in a cardboard box. “I knew something was probably in the box, so I started to carefully scoop out the packaging peanuts when the nose of the X-wing showed itself,” says Kozicki. “The four of us knew immediately that it was the actual filming model and then the magnitude of the discovery started to set in.”
Jein, who was Oscar-nominated for 1941 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, didn’t keep records of his collection.
“We don’t exactly know the circumstances by which he came into possession of this model. And as an active collector/trader, he also obtained items simply because he figured that he could trade them for something more in line with what he wanted for himself,” says Kozicki. “Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars were being made at roughly the same time, and with an overlapping group of people. And at that time no one, not even Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, could anticipate the impact these films would have on the industry or cultural zeitgeist.”
The collection catalog is now available online.
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