Production designer and art director Norman Reynolds, best known for Star Wars and Indiana Jones, has died.
Legendary production designer and art director Norman Reynolds has passed away at the age of 89. Reynolds is best known for his iconic work on the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. The BBC report of his death posted a statement from his family, who said he was “a cherished husband, father, father-in-law, granddad, and great grandad,” and that he passed away peacefully with his wife Ann and three daughters by his side.
Norman Reynolds won two well-deserved Oscars during his storied career. His first Academy Award was for best art direction on Star Wars, and his second was likewise for best art direction, this time on Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s safe to say that some of the biggest and the most cherished movie franchises in the world wouldn’t be the same without Reynolds’ brilliant touch.
Director Steven Spielberg has said in previous statements that Norman Reynolds was the “creative core” of both of these massive franchises. It’s high praise indeed, and it’s also accurate. Without Reynolds, some of the most magical and memorable sets and scenes from Star Wars and Indiana Jones wouldn’t have been the same.
Norman Reynolds’ most notable contribution to Star Wars was designing Dagobah, the swampy planet Yoda called home. With Luke doing much of his training here, it’s hard to imagine the iconic set being any different than what we saw in the film. Reynolds also designed the carbon-freezing chamber where Han Solo was frozen in carbonite.
The iconic throne room of Emperor Palpatine was also the work of Norman Reynolds, a set that would also make an appearance in The Rise of Skywalker. After serving as art director on A New Hope, he took over as production designer during filming for The Empire Strikes Back after John Barry passed away. He served this role for Return of the Jedi as well.
It’s clear that Star Wars wouldn’t be the same without Norman Reynolds. Every Star Wars property since his work on the initial film is certainly indebted to his incredible vision for set and production design. His influence can still be easily seen in modern shows and movies set in the Star Wars universe.
Norman Reynolds can also take credit for helping to create one of the most iconic opening scenes in a movie ever. The famous scene where Indiana Jones was chased by a boulder after taking an idol was designed by Reynolds. Of course, Reynolds also had fantastic work outside of these two major franchises.
Norman Reynolds also has production designer credits on the first Mission: Impossible film, Alien 3, Empire of the Sun, Return to Oz, Young Sherlock Holmes, and Superman. He likewise had a second unit director credit for Alive and served as the special effects director for Exorcist III. Reynolds was always incredibly humble despite his massive contributions to film history, telling people he made biscuits when asked about his job.
Norman Reynolds will certainly be missed, but his indelible mark on cinema remains. If you want to revisit some of his best contributions, you can stream all of Star Wars on Disney+. You can watch Raiders of the Lost Ark on Paramount+.