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"Star Wars" costume designer John Mollo dies at 86

John Mollo dead

John Mollo, who won an Academy Award for designing the costumes of the original "Star Wars" and another Oscar for the historical epic "Gandhi," has died. He was 86.

The Times of London reported that Mollo died last Wednesday.

Born in London in 1931, Mollo had worked as a military expert for such films as "The Charge of the Light Brigade," "Nicholas and Alexandra," and Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon." At the time he met director George Lucas to discuss working on "Star Wars" (a friend who'd been offered the job turned it down but suggested Mollo instead), he had never watched a science fiction film.

No matter -- "Star Wars" looked like no previous sci-fi adventure.

Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi in "Star Wars." Lucasfilm

"George made pronouncements of a general nature," Mollo recounted in an interview for "First of all, he wanted the Imperial people to look efficient, totalitarian, fascist; and the Rebels, the goodies, to look like something out of a Western or the U.S. Marines. He said, 'You've got a very difficult job here, because I don't want anyone to notice the costumes. They've got to look familiar, but not familiar at the same time.'"

Following production paintings created by artist Ralph McQuarrie to help sell the project to the studio, Mollo consulted with Lucas to develop the colors and textures of the costumes for Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, the Imperial Stormtroopers, Jawas, Sandpeople, and the other good guys and bad guys that populated a galaxy far, far away.  Instead of slick outfits made from futuristic-looking materials, the outfits were worn, their muted earth tones intrinsically tied to their worlds.

The costumes of John Mollo in the original "Star Wars" (1977). Lucasfilm

Characters were blends of influences – Kenobi's outfit resembled both a monk's and a Japanese samurai's. And while the Imperial troops and officers mimicked the jackbooted fascism of German and Nazi officers from World Wars I and II, Darth Vader's costume was a melange of styles, from a Nazi steel helmet and operatic cape to a motorcycle outfit and gas mask.

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Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in "Star Wars." Lucasfilm

Accepting the Oscar for Best Costume Design in 1978, Mollo remarked of the costumes worn by models on stage with him, "As you see, the costumes from 'Star Wars' are really not so much costumes as a bit of plumbing and general automobile engineering."

Following "Star Wars," Mollo designed the costumes for the crew of the Nostromo for Ridley Scott's sci-fi/horror film, "Alien." He returned to the "Star Wars" franchise with "The Empire Strikes Back" (bringing to life bounty hunter Boba Fett and "scoundrel" Lando Calrissian), and went back into outer space for the Sean Connery sci-fi film, "Outland."

David Prowse as Darth Vader in "The Empire Strikes Back." Lucasfilm

Mollo then worked on a string of historical and period dramas, including "Gandhi" (for which he shared an Oscar win), "King David," "Revolution," "Cry Freedom," "White Hunter Black Heart," "Chaplin," the TV series "The Jewel in the Crown," and a series of films based on Captain Horatio Hornblower.

Other credits include "The Lords of Discipline," "Air America," "The Three Musketeers," "The Jungle Book" and "Event Horizon."

But it is his costumes for "Star Wars" that are his legacy, and which are lovingly recreated by fans and cosplayers at conventions around the world.

Mark Hamill paid tribute to the "brilliant" Mollo on Twitter:

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