The Real Aerial Battles That Inspired Star Wars

Air and Space Magazine shares how George Lucas drew inspiration from WWII to create Star Wars.

Some 45 shots later—about 75 seconds of screen time—Jek Porkins’ X-wing fighter becomes the first casualty of the desperate raid. The visual cues that inspired the starfighter’s demise came from a panning shot taken by a nervy U.S. Navy cameraman in the midst of a harrowing kamikaze attack in the Pacific more than 30 years earlier. The sailor captured the final moments of a Japanese Zero as it burnt up over the deck of an American aircraft carrier. As VFX artist Paul Huston described the shot in the book Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy, “[An artist] would show me a shot of a Japanese Zero flying left to right in front of a conning tower of an aircraft carrier and say, ‘The aircraft carrier is the Death Star, the Zero is an X-wing. Do a board like that.’ ” The art became storyboard 168, shot 245, which was entitled, “PORKINS’ X WING COMES APART IN FLAMING PIECES.”

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