“Jaws” and “Star Wars” Poster Artist Dead at 92

(NewsSpace.com) – Before any movie hits the theater, the studio responsible for its production often goes into heavy promotion mode. Actors do press junkets and attend red carpet events, and trailers come out with the most interesting parts of the movie, hoping to draw viewers to the theaters on opening day. But one of the oft-overlooked parts of promotion is the posters that advertise the movies on billboards, in malls, and the like. These are created by some of the most talented people in the industry. Sadly, one of those artists, who created some of the most iconic paintings used to promote movies, recently passed away.

Who Is Roger Kastel?

Roger Kastel is a former freelance illustrator who developed a love for the arts as a child growing up in White Plains, New York. Both of his parents painted, which led to his interest and passion for drawing, and after he served in the US Navy, he made it his career.

A statement on his website announced his death at the age of 92. The artist passed away in Worcester County, Massachusetts, and no cause of death was provided.

“Jaws” Poster Propels Kastel’s Career

Kastel gained fame when his illustration for the “Jaws” paperback became one of the most iconic paintings in pop culture. He was commissioned by Bantam Books president Oscar Dystel to improve the original cover of the book, which Dystel wasn’t happy with. During a meeting with Len Leone, Bantam Books’ art director, Kastel did a rough sketch of an idea that came to mind. He was given some tips on improving it and the OK to go ahead.

What resulted was the iconic “Jaws” poster that now pops into mind whenever you think of the movie. A skinny dipper on the surface of the water is completely oblivious to the menacing shark approaching from below with its mouth open. Kastel had one grievance about the poster, though: while Bantam Books credited him with helping with the publication’s sales, the studio — which used the illustration in all of its original promotional material — did not. However, there was a silver lining. Kastel said that illustration opened more doors for him.

Commissioned by George Lucas

Following the “Jaws” book cover, Kastel was commissioned by Lucasfilm Ltd. to create a poster for the Star Wars movie “The Empire Strikes Back.” There was one request: create it in the style of the famous movie “Gone With the Wind.” Kastel put color to paper to develop the famous poster depicting Hans Solo dipping Princess Leia in a romantic style, with other icons of the movie dotting the background.

Kastel also did a wide range of other illustrations, including book covers for popular authors Judy Blume, Jackie Collins, and Ernest Hemingway.

The original drawing of the “Jaws” book cover disappeared, but copies of it can be found everywhere, and it continues to be an icon, even to this day.

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