Poster Lab: Erik Sharkey’s Drew: The Man Behind the Poster

Since Drew Struzan is a god to a whole generation of genre nerds, his forthcoming bio-doc has been a hit at Comic-Con and the like.

Drew: The Man Behind the PosterIn a column devoted to the art of movie poster design, it would be criminal to not highlight the one-sheet for a documentary about Drew Struzan, the most influential and notable film poster illustrator of the last four decades, and the strongest name to be tied to movie cover art since Saul Bass. As much a cult hero as an artist whose work has beguiled the masses, Struzan has been commissioned by geek superfans like Kevin Smith, who turned to the illustrator when whipping up promo material for Mallrats, and famously brought to prominence by blockbuster maestros Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, who’ve hired Struzan time and again for the likes of E.T., Hook, and, of course, Star Wars. Also the man behind the iconic paintings that heralded each Indiana Jones film and Blade Runner (the latter causing a fan-fueled stir when the studio opted for work by John Alvin instead), Struzan may just be Harrison Ford’s definitive portrait artist, repeatedly nailing the actor’s likeness for two classic franchises, and for the film that many would call Ford’s greatest.

Indeed, Struzan has been busy, also creating the timeless images for the Back to the Future trilogy, and—a favorite around these parts—the starry, fleshy lead poster for Masters of the Universe. Inevitably, there will be some who’ll find disappointment in the fact that the poster for this documentary, which comes from little-known filmmaker Erik P. Sharkey (Sexina: Popstar P.I.), isn’t a work done by Struzan’s own hand—a self-portrait, perhaps, adorned with the uncannily gifted phenom’s trademark light flares. But perhaps it’s refreshing that XL design company didn’t take the obvious route, and instead paired a semi-ethereal shot of Struzan with a sleek and subtle dog-eared corner, the clouds beyond representing the artist’s world the doc hopefully reveals.

Since Struzan is a god to a whole generation of genre nerds, his forthcoming bio-doc has been a hit at Comic-Con and the like, and it doesn’t hurt that the film is packed with big-name talking heads. As this handsome blue-and-white one-sheet promises, Drew features interviews with Spielberg, Lucas, Ford, and Michael J. Fox, along with Frank Darabont and Guillermo del Toro, with whom he’s also worked. For all the adoration and respect deserved by Struzan, who only recently confirmed his retirement, this poster’s tagline, which declares the artist “the most important illustrator of the last 100 years,” is, one might say, almost ludicrously generous and hyperbolic, a statement that could raise the eyebrows of Struzan’s biggest fans. But nevertheless, the design’s otherwise tasteful elements right the wrong, and one wonders what sort of pressures the designers were under. Surely their task wasn’t so daunting as one of Struzan’s famed triumphs: the poster for John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing, an image the artist frantically cooked up for Universal Pictures in one night.

R. Kurt Osenlund

R. Kurt Osenlund is a creative director and account supervisor at Mark Allen & Co. He is the former editor of Out magazine.

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