Calif. artist fights for her place in ‘Star Wars’ historical past

Aug. 31, 1981, was a cloudless Monday afternoon, and Marilee Heyer, a 39-year-old Hayward-based illustrator, discovered her option to her automotive within the car parking zone of an unmarked two-story constructing close to downtown San Rafael. She put the important thing within the ignition, however earlier than she might coax the automotive to life, the tears began to return.

“I’ve by no means cried on the finish of a job earlier than — by no means, not earlier than that and never since,” she tells SFGATE. “However, you realize, if there was one price shedding tears over, that was it.”

For Heyer, the job had elicited feelings of elation, uncertainty and being thrust right into a once-in-a-lifetime atmosphere with generational expertise. It had solely began on Aug. 6, a three-week freelance gig for Lucasfilm engaged on “Return of the Jedi” — the third and last installment within the unique “Star Wars” trilogy. 

Though some of Marilee Heyer's sketches of the bikini Carrie Fisher wore in

Although a few of Marilee Heyer’s sketches of the bikini Carrie Fisher wore in “Return of the Jedi” didn’t make the ultimate reduce, different seems to be for Fisher’s Princess Leia signaled a transition for the character and set in movement the way in which ladies would look and be portrayed within the “Star Wars” universe from then on. 

Photographs By Andrew Pridgen

On the time, Heyer’s work was principally identified from her day job, meticulous pen-and-ink renderings of hats, clothes and boots in newspaper advertisements sharing prime actual property subsequent to notable gadfly scribes of the day, like Herb Caen, Artwork Hoppe and Leah Garchik. 

Her potential to work quick, but with a watch for element, led Lucasfilm to faucet her to attract what she known as a brand new model of Carrie Fisher’s character Princess Leia. However since that quick gig, Heyer says it has been an virtually four-decade battle to obtain credit score for her work. 

It’s a battle she’s nonetheless in the course of at this time. 

‘I used to be the one lady within the room’

Heyer, a Southern California-born graduate of ArtCenter School of Design in Pasadena, began her profession within the late Sixties, engaged on layouts and background design for Saturday morning cartoons just like the “Lone Ranger” and “The Archie Present.” For “Star Wars,” the studio initially introduced her on as a recent set of eyes, storyboarding a few of the Jabba the Hutt/Tatooine scenes within the film’s first act. 

Anthony Daniels, Carrie Fisher and Michael Carter on the set of

Anthony Daniels, Carrie Fisher and Michael Carter on the set of “Return of the Jedi.”

Sundown Boulevard/Corbis by way of Getty Pictures

She labored on layouts and sketches of characters navigating the desertscape, together with Leia in her now-famous gold bikini outfit throughout the sail barge sequence. However her background in style and the way in which she drew Leia caught the attention of Nilo Rodis-Jamero, the pinnacle costume designer on the movie. (Rodis-Jamero and costume designer Aggie Rodgers are in the end credited for the design of the piece, in accordance with a 2015 Smithsonian touring exhibit on the costumes of Star Wars.) 

“There wasn’t some other work that confirmed her as a reasonably lady,” she says.

Rodis-Jamero mined Heyer for her data of cloth and style to assist him solidify Carrie Fisher’s different new seems to be as Princess Leia for the movie. 

And although to that time she had solely been at Lucasfilm for every week, she abruptly discovered herself in pitch conferences that included director Richard Marquand and Lucas himself.

“My first assembly, [Marquand] requested me to get him a cup of espresso,” Heyer says. “I used to be the one lady within the room.”

Shifting Leia ‘into a distinct second in her life’

Rodis-Jamero quickly paired Heyer with Paul LeBlanc, the legendary Canadian-born hairstylist whose stories-high wigs of 1750s Salzburg gained him an Oscar for finest make-up and hairstyling in 1984 for “Amadeus.” LeBlanc was additionally the creator of Javier Bardem’s bowl reduce in 2007’s “No Nation for Previous Males”; Bardem, who gained a finest supporting Oscar for the function, affectionately referred to the sinister look as “one of the vital horrible haircuts in historical past.”

Two of Marilee Heyer's sketches of Princess Leia's later-fabled bikini for

Two of Marilee Heyer’s sketches of Princess Leia’s later-fabled bikini for “Return of the Jedi,” drawn whereas at Lucasfilm in 1981 throughout the film’s preproduction, have been left on the drafting board. 

Photograph By Andrew Pridgen

For “Return of the Jedi,” LeBlanc “changed Princess Leia’s (Carrie Fisher) facet buns with unfastened waves for ‘Return of the Jedi,’” in accordance with Hollywood Reporter. 

The famed hairstylist shared his concepts with Heyer and offered her with rudimentary pencil sketches to direct her on how Leia’s hair ought to outline the look, because it had within the first two movies but in addition set the tone for progress. The general purpose was to transition the character from princess into Luke Skywalker’s sister and Basic Leia Organa.

“On the time, the main focus was shifting the Leia character into a distinct second in her life,” Heyer says. “It was going past the cinnamon buns or the white robes. She wanted a forest look as an infantry particular person, the woodsy have a look at the tip together with her hair down and crimped, and — you realize — the slave lady in bondage.”

Heyer describes the work she did as “quick, however thorough.” 

“I wasn’t in all the pitch conferences,” she says, “however I do know they have been pushing [Lucas] exhausting to go in new instructions and there have been nice concepts flying round. I simply occurred to have the background they wanted. I knew how hair labored, how materials held on a feminine kind. I used to be there, I suppose you can say, to fairly it up.”

Marilee Heyer talks about some of the work she did for Lucasfilm in August of 1981 that later surfaced in the movie

Marilee Heyer talks about a few of the work she did for Lucasfilm in August of 1981 that later surfaced within the film “Return of the Jedi” in addition to in materials that has lived past the movie. 

Photograph By Andrew Pridgen

Lucas reportedly cherished Heyer’s renderings, and a brand new search for Leia was cemented. In direction of the tip of the gig, Heyer was requested to remain on, however on the time, it didn’t appear to be she slot in with the tradition at Lucasfilm. 

“All people round me was about 10 years youthful and have been all gung-ho younger males prepared to work all night time or all weekend,” she says. “I wasn’t in that thoughts house. I conferred with [visual effects and art director] Joe Johnston, and stated, ‘Aren’t there going to be like six extra films?’ And he stated, ‘Nicely that is going to be the final one for some time and George goes to take a hiatus for I don’t know the way lengthy.’ So I went again to my outdated job, and within the evenings, did kids’s books.”

‘Perhaps I’ll run into Harrison Ford’

Greater than 40 years later, Heyer, 80, who now lives in Los Osos, a small unincorporated beachfront neighborhood on the Central Coast, admits her motivation for taking the job at Lucasfilm wasn’t precisely as a result of it was a strategic profession transfer. “I imply, I used to be single and feeling fairly good about myself,” she laughs. “I believed, you realize — perhaps I’ll run into Harrison Ford.”

Harrison Ford relaxes at his home in Los Angeles in the early '80s.

Harrison Ford relaxes at his house in Los Angeles within the early ’80s.

Nancy Moran

Although a meet-cute with the celebrity behind the swashbuckling anti-hero by no means materialized, Heyer’s work did. Her drawings and sketches surfaced in methods she hadn’t counted on within the movie’s last reduce. She was even employed as soon as extra on a contract foundation to illustrate a three-quarter profile of Yoda. The drawing was commissioned to develop into the official solid and crew patch throughout the film’s filming. Heyer shows one of many patches with the movie’s working title “Revenge of the Jedi” stitched above it in her artwork studio at this time.  

“When it got here out, I went to the film like everybody else, watched it in marvel like everybody else. It was solely once I was driving house I noticed, ‘Wow, I had a hand in that.’”

By the point the film was launched in Might 1983, Heyer had resumed her “regular life” working in San Francisco, producing advertisements for high-end malls like Neiman Marcus and I. Magnin. She additionally went on to publish 4 kids’s books with Viking Press (now Penguin Random Home), together with “The Weaving of a Dream” in 1989, which Writer’s Weekly referred to as “a panoramic debut.”

‘There was my drawing on the display!’ 

Reduce to the autumn of 1983, simply months after the movie’s launch, Heyer was dozing on her sofa late one night, watching a PBS membership drive. 

At that time, it had been greater than two years since her transient stint at Lucasfilm. Her work on “Return of the Jedi” had come and gone, however for some cause, it had been on her thoughts that week. “I used to be watching KQED they usually might have talked about it, I’m unsure,” Heyer says. “I fell asleep throughout their pledge drive and I wakened — and there was my drawing on the display!”

Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill on the set of

Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill on the set of “Return of the Jedi.”

Sundown Boulevard/Corbis by way of Getty Pictures

Heyer says she shot up from her sofa. The portrait was one she did of Princess Leia, styled with a protracted braid. The hosts have been showcasing the picture as one of many many beautiful examples of artwork from a brand new ebook that confirmed what was behind the scenes on the manufacturing of “Return of the Jedi.” 

“I picked up the telephone and gave a pledge proper there,” she says. “I advised the operator, ‘Please, ship me that ebook!’”

Every week later, she obtained a package deal containing “The Artwork of Return of the Jedi,” revealed by Ballantine Books, and began flipping by way of the quantity. 

When she acquired to pages 49, 80 and 92, the place 5 of her drawings have been showcased together with a number of rudimentary sketches of early Ewoks, she was shocked to seek out that her identify wasn’t within the credit.

Heyer doesn’t take subject with the path of hairstylist LeBlanc, who was cited within the credit score of her photographs, and stated his affect and imaginative and prescient are largely chargeable for Leia’s “Jedi” transition. 

Somewhat, she simply needed to be acknowledged for her work. “Paul was unimaginable to work with, and I believe his profession speaks for itself,” she says. “However he didn’t have the power to sketch out what he wanted to to persuade George. 

“That’s, I assume, the place I got here in.”

George Lucas looks at the Death Star from

George Lucas seems to be on the Loss of life Star from “Return of the Jedi.”

Sundown Boulevard/Corbis by way of Getty Pictures

Disenchanted that her identify wasn’t within the ebook, Heyer reached out to Kathy Wippert, who labored within the archives and photograph library division of Lucasfilm in San Rafael. 

Wippert, on Lucasfilm letterhead, despatched Heyer again a notice taking accountability for the oversight saying, “I simply needed to say how badly I really feel that I gave the incorrect credit score to Ballantine to your illustrations, particularly since they’re the prettiest illustrations which were finished of her. I actually thought I had everybody credited and credited accurately. Please settle for my apology. It was completely my fault. It must be taken care of within the subsequent photos. Thanks, Kathy.”

Heyer took the notice to a San Rafael-based legal professional. In December 1983, Lucasfilm despatched a letter signed by Wippert, copying Heyer and her attorneys, to Ballantine; it stated, “Previous to a reprint of the ebook, the next correction must be made … Hair kinds by Patricia McDermott and Paul LeBlanc. Designed by Paul LeBlanc and illustrated by Marilee Heyer.” 

Certainly, in a 1997 reprint of the ebook, then re-titled “The Artwork of Star Wars, Episode VI — Return of the Jedi,” Heyer is given credit score for her illustrations. 

Case closed, or so she thought. 

A battle that continues at this time

Within the years that adopted, Heyer says her work from “Jedi” has turned up in varied books about Star Wars, Hollywood or film style typically. Her illustrations have been even a part of the Smithsonian exhibition. Typically she’s credited, different occasions her identify is nowhere to be discovered. 

Jabba's slave bikini worn by the character Princess Leia in

Jabba’s slave bikini worn by the character Princess Leia in “Return of the Jedi” on show in “Star Wars and the Energy of Costume: The Exhibition” at Discovery Occasions Sq. in New York, Nov. 10, 2015.


When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4 billion, it kicked off a raft of recent curiosity across the work that Heyer and her contemporaries did for the unique movies. Not solely did their art work develop into the inspiration for numerous sequels and spin-offs — together with “Rogue One,” “The Mandalorian” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” — Heyer’s work has additionally appeared in different Disney-owned properties.

Most notably, and most not too long ago, her unique drawing seems on a variant cowl of Marvel’s “Star Wars Age of Republic Princess Leia #1.” Heyer, who says she regularly combs eBay for antiquities, continues to run throughout new publications of her work on the public sale website. 

“It doesn’t actually shock me a lot anymore,” she says. “It’s extra like seeing an outdated good friend now.”

Final 12 months, Heyer employed one other legal professional in one other try to get by way of to Disney, as soon as extra, for attribution. She understands there isn’t any cash concerned in getting the credit score for her work. “There have been no royalties,” she says, “I do know that for positive.”

Over the passage of time, her identify has as soon as once more fallen off her illustrations. She says she understands why. However she additionally believes that this may very well be the final time she could have an opportunity to have her identify connected to her work. 

When SFGATE reached out to Disney and Lucasfilm for remark, neither responded. 

‘I want to be remembered if that is my legacy’

Leia’s seismic shift in “Jedi” redefined the way in which feminine characters seemed within the “Star Wars” canon. When British actress Daisy Ridley got here on as Rey, the inheritor obvious to Leia Organa in Disney’s 2015 movie “The Power Awakens,” Fisher had some pointed recommendation for her. 

“You must battle to your outfit,” she stated in a 2015 interview with the Hollywood Reporter. “Don’t be a slave like I used to be …you retain preventing in opposition to that slave outfit.” 

Marilee Heyer looks at drawings and illustrations she's done for Lucasfilm, including a now-famous illustration of Yoda that became the cast and crew's official patch for what would become

Marilee Heyer seems to be at drawings and illustrations she’s finished for Lucasfilm, together with a now-famous illustration of Yoda that grew to become the solid and crew’s official patch for what would develop into “Return of the Jedi.” 

Photograph By Andrew Pridgen

Heyer acknowledges the shifts which have occurred culturally and in style since her days drawing on contract for Lucasfilm — shifts away from an atmosphere that in the end knowledgeable her resolution on the time to go. “I bear in mind pondering, ‘[If] I stayed on, would I be doing art work, or would I be a espresso fetcher?’” she says, discussing the work of many ladies of the time that has gone equally uncredited.

“I want to be remembered if that is my legacy,” she concludes. “If that is what I’m most famous for, I wish to ensure that I’m getting credited once I’m not round. I view my art work like my kids. You’ve got to have the ability to ship them out and provides them the instruments they should battle.”

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