A Glimpse Into the Star Wars Universe Through Sketchbooks of Designer John Mollo

Here comes a chance for Star Wars fans to take a glimpse into the Star Wars and see how the universe was created through the sketchbooks of the Oscar-winning British costume designer, John Mollo, the man who brought the characters to life. The sketchbooks will be offered in an auction at Bonhams in London this December.

John Mollo (left) won an Academy Award for Costume Design for first episode of Star Wars

John Mollo first started his career as an advisor on historical military dress, an interest that he had developed from a very young age. He was an advisor for movies like The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968), Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) and Barry Lyndon (1975). Following the success of the above movies, John Mollo was commissioned by George Lucas to create uniforms and ensembles for Star Wars.

At the time, he was unfamiliar with the sci-fi genre and considered the film ‘a sort of space western,’ adding that ‘one of the heroes is a dustbin.’ Lucas urged Mollo to avoid the stereotypical space-age look of earlier science fiction productions and instead to focus his designs on the pivotal concept of light versus darkness – ‘I just want to see light versus dark,’ he said.

John Mollo’s sketch for Darth Vader

Darth Vader in the first episode of Star Wars movie

John Mollo’s sketch for Han Solo

There are two sketchbooks going up for sale. The first one, dating from April 1975 to July 1976, shows some of the first hand-drawn costume designs for Star Wars characters including Darth Vader, Chewbacca and the stormtroopers. To get the idea for Darth Vader, John Mollo had to go to three departments with just three months before shooting begun. He visited the ecclesiastical department for a robe, the modern department for a motorcycle suit and the military department for a German helmet and gas mask.

The book also served as Mollo’s personal production and development diary, containing pages of costume budgets, production notes and meeting notes with the Director/ Writer George Lucas.

John Mollo’s sketch for the stormtroopers

The stormtroopers in the first episode of Star Wars

John Mollo’s sketch for Han Solo and Princess Leia

John Mollo’s sketch for Chewbacca

Han Solo and Chewbacca in the first episode of Star Wars

Another sketchbook covers the period predominantly including the production of Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Other sections of the book show work for Ridley Scott’s Alien and Douglas Hickox’s Zulu Dawn.

John Mollo’s sketch for Alien

John Mollo’s sketch for Alien

The Academy Award® won by John Mollo in 1978 for Best Costume Design for first episode of Star Wars

The two sketchbooks will be sold as part of a stand-alone 62-lot sale, Designing an Empire: The John Mollo Archive, at Bonhams London on 11 December 2018, estimated at £100,000-150,000 and £80,000-120,000 respectively.


Two sketch books from John Mollo

Period: April 1975 to July 1976
Main content: some of the first hand-drawn costume designs for Star Wars characters; costume sketches from 1975 film Barry Lyndon.  
Estimate: £100,000 - 150,000

Period: 1978-1979
Main content: designs from The Empire Strikes back, Alien and Zulu Dawn
Estimate: £80,000 - 120,000

Auction house: Bonhams
Sale: Designing An Empire: The John Mollo Archive
London auction: 11 December 2018|4pm