The man behind the greatest movie posters

Movie posters don’t make themselves and the best ones are created by artists, not thought up in some horrible marketing room. At the height of the art form, the posters work on two levels: they make you intrigued for the movie and they capture the tone and feeling of the movie as well.

It’s not easy to do and more often than not you get a lame photoshopped movie poster than does neither of those two objectives. Thankfully, there is Drew Struzan.

Struzan has created posters for such movies as Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Hellboy, Harry Potter, Rambo, The Goonies, E.T., The Shawshank Redemption and Blade Runner.

His name, in certain circles, is spoken with reverence for his body of work, but until now there hasn’t been much written about him. Just listen to what two directors had to say about his artwork.

Guillermo del Toro is among the filmmakers who rave about Struzan’s ability to expand the world of a movie through his pictures — images that, while printed, hardly seem static. “What Drew does isn’t really distilling the elements of a movie,” says Del Toro, who has enlisted Struzan to do posters for “Hellboy” and its upcoming sequel, as well as a limited-edition piece for “Pan’s Labyrinth.” “It’s almost alchemy. He takes images and makes them quintessentially cinematic. His style has been copied so many times in a bad way, people don’t realize until they revisit his posters just how powerful the pure Struzan style is, how purely filmic it is.”

Frank Darabont is such a fan, he not only has tapped Struzan for pieces for “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile,” he has also made him a basis for Thomas Jane’s lead character in last year’s “The Mist.” (Several of Struzan’s originals were featured on-screen as set dressing.) “Most of what passes for movie poster art these days are just Photoshopped pictures of actors striking saucy poses and staring at us like a troop of lobotomy victims,” Darabont says. “Drew’s work speaks to me on a much deeper level. The images he renders become part of that film’s iconography and history, just as important in some respects as the film itself, and sometimes better.

“He crafts a piece of art that honors your film instead of just merely trying to sell it,” he adds. “Seriously, for a filmmaker who really appreciates what poster art means, Drew doing your poster is like getting an award.”

Having del Toro, a master of visuals himself, and Frank Darabont, who, no matter what happens for the rest of his life made one of the greatest movies with The Shawshank Redemption, speak that highly of Struzan is a testament to his work.

Strangely, the article focuses only on the artists professional life and we glean little in the way of how Struzan evolved or lives his life. Despite being the one artist all movie directors want, he isn’t in high demand because the majority of movie posters are created with Photoshop and computers.

Though movie work is not as forthcoming, Struzan was commissioned by the USPS to do a series of stamps and he’s recently gone back to his roots designing album artwork for musicians. Oddly, for the man who has drawn actor Harrison Ford more than anyone else, he’s never really met him.

Struzan admits, it’s the great irony of his career that he’s never actually met Harrison Ford. “I’ve drawn Harrison more than any other person on the face of the Earth, but I’ve never been a part of Hollywood,” he says, sounding characteristically Zen about his tangential industry involvement. With a laugh, he notes that he’s inching closer, though. Thanks to his Oscar poster assignment, he got to go to this year’s ceremony, where Ford was a presenter. “So I finally saw him in person — from the fourth balcony, about 200 yards away.”

At heart, he seems to be a fan of the movies just like everyone else. And maybe that’s what makes his work so much better than anything else out there.

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