A model of an X-wing fighter, which was used to film the climactic battle scene in the 1977 Star Wars, sold at auction Sunday for $US3.135 million ($4.9 million), far exceeding the opening price of $400,000 and setting a record for a prop used on-screen in a Star Wars movie, according to Heritage Auctions.
Not bad for a model spaceship found buried in some packing peanuts in a cardboard box in a garage. Friends of Greg Jein, a Hollywood visual effects artist, discovered the X-wing stashed in his garage last year after he died at age 76.
It was one of hundreds of props, scripts, costumes and other pieces of Hollywood memorabilia that Jein had collected over the decades, and had left scattered throughout two houses, two garages and two storage units in Los Angeles.
Heritage Auctions said the winning bidder did not want to be publicly identified. The unnamed buyer had been bidding on the floor of the auction house in Dallas, Texas, competing with another collector who was bidding over the phone. A similar model X-wing sold last year for nearly $US2.4 million.
More than 500 other items from Jein’s collection also sold at the auction, for a total of $US13.6 million.
The two-day event was the second-highest-grossing Hollywood auction in history, after the 2011 sale of memorabilia from actress Debbie Reynolds, which grossed $US22.8 million, Heritage Auctions said.
Her collection included Marilyn Monroe’s billowing “subway dress” from the 1955 movie The Seven Year Itch, which sold for $US4.6 million.
Jein’s collection reflected his passion for science fiction, comic books and fantasy. It included a Stormtrooper costume from the original Star Wars movie, which sold for $US645,000, a spacesuit from the 1968 Stanley Kubrick movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which sold for $US447,000, and a utility belt from the 1960s Batman television series, starring Adam West, which sold for $US36,250.
Jein also collected quirkier pieces, such as a lace hairpiece that had been worn by William Shatner as Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek television series. It sold for $US13,750.
But the X-wing drew by far the most attention.
Heritage Auctions said the 56-centimetre prop was used in scenes involving X-wings flown by three pilots in the Rebel Alliance’s final assault on the Death Star. The characters’ call signs were Red Leader, Red Two and Luke Skywalker’s own Red Five.
It had been built by Industrial Light & Magic, the special effects studio founded by George Lucas, with motorised wings, fibre-optic lights and other features for close-up shots.
But people in the visual effects industry had not seen the model in decades, according to Gene Kozicki, a visual-effects historian and archivist who worked with Jein on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in the 1990s.
“It was like ‘Holy cow, we found an X-wing, a real, honest-to-goodness X-wing,‘” Kozicki said last month, recalling the moment he and several others pulled the X-wing out of a box in Jein’s garage. “We were carrying on like kids on Christmas.”
Kozicki said the collection was a testament to Jein’s love of collecting, which started with baseball cards when he was 5 years old.
As his collection spread to Hollywood memorabilia, he was drawn to props and costumes that were made by artisans and craftspeople before the advent of digital special effects, Kozicki said.
It was an art that Jein knew well.
He was nominated for an Academy Award in 1978 for his work on Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Jein led the team that built the model of the alien “mother ship” that appears in the movie. The piece is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum.
In 1980, Jein was nominated for another Academy Award in visual effects for his work on Spielberg’s 1941, which was filmed with model tanks, buildings and a runaway Ferris wheel.
“Greg famously said ‘I have a hard time throwing anything away,’ and I think in a way he kept the collection going so the recognition of those craftspeople wouldn’t be discarded like a prop,” Kozicki said in an email. “I can only hope that the new owners keep that spirit going.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
Fetching latest articles