Darth Maul: The Creator

Iain McCaig


Iain McCaig - Creator of Darth MaulIain McCaig is a multi-talented artist, not limited to any one medium for use in telling his stories or the stories of others. He was born in California and grew up along west coast of Canada in the vicinity of Victoria. He studied art at the famous Glasgow School of Art (Founded by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and a major influence in the Arts & Crafts movement). After graduating he moved to London where he began his career illustrating books, posters, advertisements and many other print media.

In 1989 he relocated to California, upon taking a job with Industrial Light & Magic at Skywalker Ranch. Not just an illustrator, he filled many rolls including story-board artist, concept designer and animator. He worked for a time on Episode 2 (Attack of the Clones) and left to work on some other projects including producing his own films. According to a report on, Iain recently rejoined with ILM. If so, we look forward to whatever creations he has made in this film.

First Impressions

“As a character designer, a costume is part
of the character,” says McCaig. “The costume
goes all the way -- it includes what they look
like, how they wear their hair...everything.”

Early Sith Knight McCaig contributed to two of The Phantom Menace’s most popular characters - Queen Amidala and of course Darth Maul, especially in regards to costume.

It became Iain's job, as a conceptual designer, to take the characters from the script, even though it wasn’t finalized yet, and expand upon them, visualize them and make them “real.” In making these preliminary designs, McCaig had to consider everything about that character, not just their hair or costume but also what the character does in the scenes, and he needed to “know the spirit of the character wearing it.”

The Process

“Draw your worst nightmare.”
George Lucas to artist Iain McCaig.

McCaig admits that Darth Maul was the most difficult concept to capture in the film. He needed to create something evil yet watchable and that fit into the Star Wars universe. Taking his cues from George Lucas, McCaig insists that they were not afraid of making him to similar to the ever popular Darth Vader. The difference was that this time “you were going to see a Sith Lord who was fully fit and at the height of his powers fighting against two similarly fit Jedi. And George compared it to a cockfight...” wanting them to move like martial arts masters.

What they did do different for Maul was to reveal him, rather than conceal him. At first, McCaig spent a lot of time trying to draw different masks that could be worn by this Sith Lord, but admitted that Vader had the best mask ever. “Part skull. Part Nazi Helmet. I tried everything I could think of to better it before eventually throwing in the towel.” There was no way he could top it. So the decision was made to take the mask away and have a face shown to the audience.

McCaig's worst nightmare!So, they started from scratch. “Draw your worst nightmare,” George Lucas said. It seems McCaig’s worst nightmare was a vision of the undead with red ribbons falling over its head. When Lucas asked for his second worst nightmare, McCaig told him it was clowns! Despite the lack of inspiration from those quarters, McCaig continued creating illustrations, varying this and that from drawing to drawing and grabbing anyone he could find to model for him.

The breakthrough came when McCaig superimposed a circuit board pattern over the face of one of the hapless victims he had coerced into modeling for him, David Dozoretz from the animatics group. Lucas liked the idea presented to him and McCaig took it from there. McCaig stated, “If you were to strip the flesh off your face right now...the muscles would form a Darth Maulish pattern.”

The costume Maul wore in the movie had very different origins than the end result. “The first costume was quite big - making him larger than life. He had Batman spikes sticking outside of his neck. For most of the storyboarding he was in that costume.” However, the final battle between Jedi and Sith, indicated to McCaig that something looser, more flowing would be more appropriate. He had and the costume designer, Trisha Biggar, came up with modified Samurai pleats that would splay outwards as Maul spun.

The End Result

“When I was working on Darth Maul, Drew
Strudan, who does the posters, said, “Do you realize
you are making icons?” I said if I knew that,
I could never do this!” - Iain McCaig

Darth Maul with FeathersWhat we know of as Maul’s horns, started out as feathers. McCaig wanted to balance the horror of Maul’s tattoos with an element of beauty and softness, to “lend an element of seduction to the dark side.” These were small black feathers, bound to Darth Maul’s head by wire, which cut into his head. He envisioned this was part of the Sith’s morning ritual of wrapping his head with the wire, having to get the feathers in just the right spot.

It is now well known that McCaig made drawings of Darth Maul that included more skin than what was shown on the big screen. When comic book artists, Drew Struzan and Jan Duursema, were put on the project to bring Maul to the DarkHorse comics series, they looked to McCaig for authentic Maul designs. He was happy to oblige, as he had received many letters from fans asking him to bring Maul back, even if only half of him. “The comic, at last, will be a place for him to live on,” McCaig stated. Jan Duursema, who did the line drawings for the comic stated, “drawing the designs for the first time gave me a chill because they are like calligraphy or ancient runes and give him a strange and terrible beauty -- especially when he is in motion.”

Maul’s whole body had been designed by McCaig, “based the idea of peeled flesh and muscle patterns.” Some of his preliminary drawings for EP1 included costumes that revealed some of Maul’s arms, chest and legs, but they were obviously never produced. Alas, the official reasons for the tattoo designs will perhaps never be known. McCaig speculated that the tattoos became the mark of the Sith. “In my mind, he’s covered from head-to-toe. Every inch of him.”McCaig's vision of Darth Maul's tattoos

McCaig added that lots of people called up with suggestions for the tattoo designs for Maul's body. “Especially women -- who were suggesting different patterns, especially red spots on his butt.” Another take on that idea was given on in a report of one of McCaig’s lectures, this one at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, TX - he stated that in addition that he had created a drawing of Darth Maul for his wife, showing the Sith Lord from the waist down and added that there was a big red dot on each butt cheek!

Now, where can we get a copy of that....

More Pictures: Pre-Production Images


[ The Cast: Main Page ] [ Actor: Ray Park ]
[ Voice: Peter Serafinowicz ] [ Creator: Iain McCaig ] [ Makeup: Paul Engelen ]



The Endicott Studio: Iain McCaig Biography

Star Wars at TalkCity: Chat with Iain McCaig Interview with Iain McCaig
Designing a Sith Lord (28 Feb 2000)
Your Worst Nightmare
Warning Signs
From Concept to Costume (11 Apr 2000)
Imagination Runs Wild
Undressed to Kill (26 July 2000)

The Art of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (Book Excerpts for widescreen VHS Collectors Edition) pgs. 8, 42-43.

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