Prolific film historian, film writer, and author Jonathan Rinzler, better known by his pen name J.W. Rinzler, died July 28 at his home in Northern California after an 11-month long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 58 years old. Rinzler’s behind-the-scenes coverage of some of cinema’s biggest productions provided an honest glimpse into the magic of moviemaking, and both he and his work will be sorely missed.
After joining Lucasfilm in 2001, Rinzler became the executive editor of its publishing arm, Lucasbooks. There, he wrote incredibly detailed, best-selling coffee table books with the kind of gorgeous gloss you would expect, without them ever feeling like marketing materials. Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars, The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, and The Making of Return of the Jedi all offer unprecedented access to the work that went into making the classic trilogy, taking fans behind closed doors and sets to where the real magic happened.
In recent years, Rinzler began working on similar books for other franchises, including The Complete Making of Indiana Jones, The Making of Alien, The Making of Aliens, and an upcoming book about The Shining. Regardless of which films he was highlighting, Rinzler offered a unique look into their creation. He told stories and shared documents and photos that fans may have never gotten a chance to see, and served as a guide to the wonderful world of moviemaking. The Making of Star Wars gained Rinzler widespread critical praise for establishing a new standard of archival research. All told, he wrote more than 25 books, including three New York Times bestsellers.
In addition to writing some of the best, most in-depth non-fiction books on the making of movies, Rinzler also published two novels. The first was the best-selling graphic comic The Star Wars, which he co-authored with artist Mike Mayhew. The second was a speculative history novel titled All Up, about the race to the moon and the Apollo 11 landing.
A few weeks ago, Rinzler’s daughter Sarah started a GoFundMe for her father when he began making end-of-life plans. Within days, fans had overwhelmed the family with love, blowing well past the fundraising goal. It’s a small token of appreciation for a man who gave so much of his life to cinephiles everywhere. Any extra funding raised will be going to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and the family requests that any remembrances in Rinzler’s name be made to them as well.
May the Force be with you, sir, and may you rest in peace.
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