A Star Wars: Return of the Jedi artist reveals her 40-year fight to have her work with Leia recognized


Marilee Heyer helped design Princess Leia’s iconic “bikini” in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi…but still fighting for recognition 40 years later.

During an interview with SFGate, the artist and illustrator explained her struggle for recognition after being left out of numerous books and exhibitions about the legendary suit.

“I would like to be remembered if this is my legacy,” he explained. “If this is what I’m most known for, I want to make sure I’m credited when I’m gone. I consider my artwork my children. You have to be able to send them and give them the tools they need to fight.”

“I was the only woman in the room.”

Heyer was hired in 1981 as an illustrator, bringing Princess Leia design concepts to life during the initial production of Return of the Jedi.

It was a three-week freelance job that earned him a spot in the galaxy far, far away. “In my first meeting, [el director Richard Marquand] he asked me to bring him a cup of coffee“, revealed. “I was the only woman in the room.”

Nevertheless, his work was of crucial importance: “There was no other job that showed her as a pretty woman,” she explained.

Heyer’s designs came at a crucial point in development, when Leia was entering a new era.

“At the time, the goal was to move the character of Leia into a different time in her life,” said Heyer. “It was going beyond the cinnamon buns or the white robes. She needed the woodland look as an infantry person, the woodland look at the end with the curly hair down, and – you know – the slave girl on a slave regimen.” servitude.”

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Although many of his Princess Leia designs did not make it into the final version of the film, her work has been collected in production books and exhibitions, often without crediting her. An important example is The Art of Return of the Jedi, a book published by Ballantine Books that contains much of the film’s production design.

There, on the pages, were Heyer’s designs… attributed to another person: hairdresser Paul LeBlanc.

“[Paul] he was amazing to work with, and I think his career speaks for itself,” he said. “But he didn’t have the ability to outline what it took to convince George. That’s, I guess, where I came in.”

LeBlanc originally provided Heyer with rudimentary sketches to show how the hairstyle was to inform Princess Leia’s overall look. Nevertheless, it was his sketches that convinced George Lucas to rethink Leia’s design.

Nonetheless, often not crediteddespite the fact that his work appears in numerous books and in an exhibition at the Smithsonian.

And that book it appeared in? Lucasfilm apologized for the oversight.

“I just wanted to say how bad I feel that I gave Ballantine the wrong credit for her illustrations, especially since they are the most beautiful ever made of her,” Lucasfilm archivist Kathy Wippert said in a letter to Heyer. “I really thought I credited everyone correctly. Please accept my apologies. It was totally my fault. It should be fixed in the next few photos. Thanks Kathy.”

The 1997 reissue of the book correctly attributes Heyer and his work.

Although he knows that there is no money involved, Heyer hired a lawyer last year to try to force Disney to properly attribute his work. “There was no copyright,” she revealed. “I know for sure.”

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All he wants is proper attribution, so his legacy will continue for years to come.

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