When 14-year-old John Knoll first saw Star Wars in 1977, he couldn’t work out how they’d done it. That experience, of seeing something completely new and mysterious, inspired him to pursue a career in visual effects, he says, “rather than a reputable field like engineering or architecture.”
These days, it’s Knoll who’s inspiring others to pursue disreputable careers. Since 2013, he has been chief creative officer at Industrial Light & Magic. On Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, he is credited as executive producer as well as visual effects supervisor. And a decade ago, when he was still at work on the Star Wars prequel trilogy, he also came up with the story—just for fun.
“I have him to blame for all this,” says Rogue One director Gareth Edwards. He adds, admiringly, “He and his brother also co-wrote Photoshop.” (Thomas and John Knoll sold Photoshop to Adobe in 1989. Edwards occasionally bugs Knoll to add features.) “He’s a bit of a genius.”
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