Star Wars Iconic Prop Lost For Decades Is Now Up For Auction

By Charlene Badasie | Published

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X-wings in A New Hope (1977)

A long-lost piece of Star Wars history has been found and is poised to become the star attraction of an upcoming auction. An original 20-inch model of an X-wing starfighter, a vessel that became an enduring symbol of the Star Wars franchise, is set to go under the hammer at the Heritage Auction on October 14 and 15 in Dallas, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

One of the original 20-inch X-wing starfighter models from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope is going up for auction with a starting bid of $400,000.

Constructed by Industrial Light & Magic for the original 1977 Star Wars film, this specific X-wing model, known as “Red Leader” or “Red One,” is one of just four “hero” filming miniatures ever created. These hero models boasted servo-controlled wings and lights, making them perfect for close-up shots and A New Hope’s thrilling final battle sequences, including the iconic trench run.

With a $400,000 starting bid, the Star Wars X-wing belonged to the late Oscar-nominated model maker Greg Jein. “This model has not been displayed or modified since it left ILM,” VFX historian Gene Kozicki explained. “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.”

Over the years, this Star Wars X-wing had become a mythic artifact in visual effects folklore, with stories circulating about hero models that had gone missing when Industrial Light & Magic relocated from California’s San Fernando Valley to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1978. “We never could confirm anything. It became something of a mythical ‘white whale,'” Kozicki added.

Kozicki also detailed how the Star Wars discovery was made while helping Jein’s family catalog his extensive collection. “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. The four of us knew immediately that it was the actual filming model, and then the magnitude of the discovery started to set in.”

space battles
An X-wing in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

“This model has not been displayed or modified since it left ILM. 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.”

-VFX historian Gene Kozicki

One of the most intriguing aspects of this remarkable find is the mystery surrounding how Greg Jein acquired the Star Wars model. As Kozicki explains, Jein didn’t keep records of his props. He was a collector and trader during a time when the film industry was changing following the release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars.

At the time, no one, not even iconic directors like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, could have predicted the profound impact these films would have on the industry and pop culture. As the auction date approaches, anticipation is building among Star Wars fans and collectors as the X-wing model is a symbol of the enduring power of the Star Wars franchise.

Red Leader In A New Hope

Drew Henley as Red Leader in A New Hope (1977)

The Red Leader X-wing scenes in the 1977 Star Wars movie were pivotal to the story. Red Leader, portrayed by actor Drewe Henley, the leader of the Rebel Alliance’s Red Squadron, led the assault on the Death Star with the mission involving flying into its trench to target a small exhaust port, the station’s sole vulnerability. The success of this mission was crucial to the Rebellion’s survival.

Ultimately, it was Luke Skywalker, piloting an X-wing, who successfully fired proton torpedoes into the exhaust port, leading to the Death Star’s destruction. Red Leader and the other X-wing pilots played a vital role in providing cover against Imperial forces and clearing the way for Luke’s shot. These scenes have become iconic moments in the franchise, representing unwavering determination.

They are celebrated as some of the most memorable moments in cinematic history, leaving a lasting impact on fans worldwide. As such, the Star Wars auction promises to be an exciting event, offering enthusiasts the chance to own a piece of the galaxy far, far away.

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