Jonathan Rinzler, an executive editor at Lucasfilm and the prolific author of behind-the-scenes books about franchises such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Alien, and The Shining, has passed away at the age of 58. Rinzler, who wrote under the pen name of J.W. Rinzler, reportedly passed away due to pancreatic cancer on July 28th in his home in Albion, California, according a social media post from his daughter, Sarah Rinzler.
Sarah writing: Jonathan passed away on July 28th after a nearly one-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Thank you to all for your support and love. https://t.co/e0R0JBOjpy
— J. W. Rinzler (@jwrinzler) August 4, 2021
Rinzler was born on August 17, 1962 in Lakewood, New Jersey, Rinzler initially studied painting while at the Parsons School of Design, and ultimately graduated from New York University with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in comparative literature.
Rinzler joined Lucasfilm in 2001, becoming the executive editor of the Lucasbooks publishing arm. His first work for the publisher included The Art of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and The Making of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. His most well-known work was 2007’s The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film, which earned critical acclaim for its comprehensive approach to balancing archival research with cast and crew interviews. He would go on to write several other Star Wars books before leaving Lucasfilm in 2016, including The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, The Making of Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: The Blueprints, and The Sounds of Star Wars.
“I applied through an online classified—I didn’t even know Lucasfilm had a book department, LucasBooks,” Rinzler wrote in a 2012 profile on StarWars.com. “Frankly I didn’t even know about the Expanded Universe. I just loved George Lucas’s films. American Graffiti was the eye and ear opener for me, though Star Wars wasn’t far behind. I was hired as the nonfiction editor, which, by LucasBooks’ strange definition, also included all of DK’s Star Wars books because they are not story driven (but they are). Then Lucy Wilson, director of publishing and Lucasfilm’s first employee (since 1974, now retired), threw in Scholastic’s Boba Fett middle-grade fiction series. I went to the first story meeting with Lucy and Howard Roffman, president of Lucas Licensing (till recently), and exhibited my expertise by mispronouncing “Coruscant.” Howard suggested I “get with the program.” I’ve been trying to ever since…”
Rinzler wrote over 25 books, three of which became New York Times bestsellers, and edited over one hundred Star Wars-related titles. Outside of the Star Wars universe, he penned multiple books about the Indiana Jones franchise, as well as The Making of Aliens, The Making of Planet of the Apes, The Making of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and Howard Kazanjian: A Producer’s Life. He also wrote several fiction books, including the space historical novel All Up, and the best-selling graphic novel The Star Wars, which he co-wrote with Mike Mayhew.
Rinzler is survived by his wife, two daughters, his parents, siblings, and a grandson. His family requests that any rememberances in his name be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
Our thoughts are with Rinzler’s family, friends, and fans at this time.