Remembering Jonathan Rinzler, bestselling author of ‘Star Wars’ books

Rinzler, 58, attended Berkeley High School and went on to have a prodigious career as a bestselling author of cinematic history books about ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Indiana Jones’ and other blockbuster films.

Jonathan Rinzler. Submitted photo

Jonathan Rinzler, who wrote under the name J.W. Rinzler, died peacefully on July 28 at his home in Albion after an 11-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 58.

Jonathan was born Aug. 17, 1962, to parents Alan and Marilyn Rinzler and spent his formative years in Berkeley, attending Berkeley High School with brothers Peter and Ben. He began his undergraduate studies at the Parsons School of Design, where he studied painting, an interest he continued throughout his adult life. Rinzler graduated from New York University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in comparative literature.

Rinzler had a prodigious career as a bestselling author of cinematic history books about Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and other 20th century blockbuster films. He joined Lucasfilm in 2001 and became the executive editor of its publishing arm, Lucasbooks. Over 15 years, he authored an extensive body of Star Wars-related publications, including The Making of Star Wars (a New York Times bestseller), The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, The Making of Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: The Blueprints, and The Sounds of Star Wars.

Read a remembrance of Jonathan Rinzler on the Star Wars website

The publication of The Making of Star Wars gained Rinzler widespread critical praise for establishing a new standard of meticulous archival research including in-depth interviews with key film cast and crew members. The London Times wrote: “For anyone who has the Force with them, this awesomely nerdy tome is a gift from heaven.” And from Film Review: “A book like this simply blows everything else out of the water.” All told, he wrote over 25 books, including three New York Times bestsellers and one London Times bestseller. In addition to his multiple books about the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, he wrote 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.

Jonathan Rinzler and George Lucas. Credit: The Rinzler family

In addition to his nonfiction works, Rinzler wrote two novels, the No. 1 best-selling graphic novel The Star Wars, which he co-authored with artist Mike Mayhew, and his recent space history novel All Up, hailed by award-winning science fiction author Dr. Jacques Vallee as “an exceptional book that takes the reader beyond the usual descriptions of the challenges and achievements of the first Space Age, by describing the human reality behind the extraordinary efforts of intelligence and will that made it all possible.”  

Rinzler is survived by his beloved wife, Genevieve Rinzler; daughters, Judith (a psychologist practicing in Fort Bragg, California) and Sarah (a student at Hastings Law School in San Francisco); and grandson, Henry. He is also survived by his parents, Alan and Marilyn, and siblings Ben, Peter, Ari and Daniel.

 The family requests that any remembrances in Jonathan’s name be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.