When word got out in 2018 that James Schoppe, the Academy Award-nominated art director for Return of the Jedi, was opening his collection of Star Wars memorabilia to the world you could hear fans around the world gasp at the same time. Schoppe kept boxes of absolute Star Wars treasures, untouched, for more than 35 years.
Never-before-seen script page, binders full of detailed production notes, sketches and more went up for bid. There was one item, however, that grabbed international headlines: Schoppe kept the iconic prop weapon used by Harrison Ford as the swashbuckling Han Solo, the BlasTech DL-44.
The weapon was one of many, non-firing props built by his close friend and prop master Peter Hancock, who gave the blaster to Schoppe as a gift when “Star Wars was over.” The Star Wars trilogy consisted of the original Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). Of course, Star Wars never really ended, as a slew of prequels and sequels and spin offs followed.
Nevertheless, the first three movies hold a special place in the hearts of fans, which explains how, thanks to enthusiastic bidding, the Schoppe’s Han Solo movie prop sold for an eye-popping $550,000.
Photo courtesy of Julien’s Auctions
For the first time, Schoppe reminisces about the challenges of making the film and the lifelong friendships based on imagination and respect.
How much imagination came to play when developing weapons for the film?
Schoppe: In conversation with Peter Hancock and other prop makers in London, I learned [Star Wars creator] George Lucas does not like visible screw heads on weapons or other space stuff. Things would be…