Star Wars' Past and Future with Marco Grob for Time Magazine
Sometimes it feels like the original Star Wars trilogy came out a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. So much about American culture has changed in the nearly four decades since we were first introduced to Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia. Alec Guinness, the actor who played Obi-Wan Kenobi, one of the most recognizable characters from the series, famously thought the movie would most likely be a dud but the franchise that has grown out of that one movie is now one of the most significant stories from the last century. This is a history that Marco Grob was acutely aware of stepping into when he agreed to shoot portraits of this generation's Star Wars stars for Time Magazine.
As a photographer, Marco speaks a visual language. It's how he communicates his ideas and executes his vision. When George Lucas brought his vision to life in the 70s and 80s, the technology largely didn't exist to bring those ideas to life, but he figured out ways to do it and forever changed the way films were made. “They are not only a part of cultural history as a cultural phenomenon, but what I also love about it is they always push the envelope the way films are done,” says Marco. “And the way they are done in any aspect, technical, formal, sound, camera tricks, and CGI, to say the least.” Marco allowed those advances filter into his images for Time Magazine, most noticeably the coloring from the original trilogy. The “used future” that formed Star Wars’ aesthetic lent a certain tone to the story that Marco drew upon for these photographs.
Before ‘A New Hope’ (the first Star Wars film), the world largely didn't know who Mark Hamill or Carrie Fisher was (Harrison Ford was already making himself known with American Graffiti), but after these movies their entire careers were made. It happens time and time again, franchise to franchise, blockbuster to blockbuster and as one of the go-to photographers for Hollywood Marco sees it happen all the time. He knows it's going to happen this time. “It’s nice to have conversations with people in a part of their lives where it will change forever,” Marco says about sitting with these actors, especially Oscar Isaacs. “They don’t even know what hit them. They think it’s going to change a bit but they don’t know how much it will change.”
It's not just the human actors, though. R2D2 and C-3PO are icons of the Star Wars culture, and for The Force Awakens JJ Abrams has introduced BB8: the newest droid we're going to love. Time asked Marco to photograph both R2D2 and BB8 and lucky for him the droids showed up to set in fully working order. They are stars in their own right, and Marco seized the moment. “The droids drove around and I have footage of BB8 talking with me, and R2D2 running after me,” Marco says. “So that’s pretty cool to say the least. It was amazing.”
As a fan of the series, Marco was excited to step into the world and create imagery that will help to introduce the people behind the newest chapter of this epic tale, but now that his portion of the shoot and press has passed, he’s able to appreciate how monumental it was. “It was so crazy to a certain extent to have a chance to do it and to be a part, even so remotely, of the biggest cultural phenomenon of this year or of years to come, even,” says Marco. “It’s just a huge deal.”