Roger Kastel, the artist behind the famed “Jaws” poster of a leviathan lurking underneath a swimmer, has died at the age of 92 from heart and kidney failure.
The unforgettable image was originally used as the cover for the paperback version of the Peter Benchley novel that the movie was based on; it was later appropriated by the movie’s promotional and marketing campaign. (As his official site, which confirmed his death, puts it: “Universal Studios, so impressed by the work, purchased the right to use this image as the poster for the movie. This was the first time that a poster image became a merchandising product in itself. Forty years later Roger’s illustration is still as instantly recognized throughout the world as when it first exploded onto the scene.”)
The original hardcover artwork featured a much smoother, less menacing-looking shark. Kastel gave it some teeth.
Kastel also created another poster that has been lodged in the memories of countless moviegoers – the “Gone with the Wind”-indebted poster for “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.” This is the one with Han and Leia as the central focus, with much real estate given to the ice planet Hoth and Han on the Tauntaun, with “The Star Wars Saga Continues” emblazoned up top. Iconic!
Other posters that he created artwork for include Michael Crichton’s “The Great Train Robbery” and the Richard Burton/Nevill Coghill version of “Doctor Faustus” starring Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. He also did covers for John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden,” Richard Price’s “The Wanderers,” Jackie Collins’ “Hollywood Wives” and H.G. Wells’ “The Invisible Man.”
While not as well known or celebrated as Drew Struzan or Bob Peak, Kastel is still instantly recognizable and hugely talented, known for his striking compositions and unparalleled line work. Even when he was doing a cover for a paperback romance novel, his illustrations were enough to stop you dead in your tracks.