Drew Struzan has the near impossible task of depicting one medium using another.  He is, simply put, a movie poster painter but is not just A movie poster painter, he is THE movie poster painter.  Emerging from a field of a dozen or so who shared his craft in the ‘70s, Drew Struzan has become the sole keeper of the flame.

The Walking Dead

Darabont got Struzan to paint The Walking Dead for Comic-Con

Drew has painted the posters for some of the most successful movies of all time.  His posters are not just ads for the films, they are works of art that have a very unique effect on the viewer.  When you look at one of Drew’s posters, even if you haven’t already seen the film, you feel like you have; and if you have seen the film, you feel like you’ve just seen it again.  His special blend of life-like strokes and nostalgic imagery places his work equally at home in an art gallery or on a lunchbox.

Drew does not only paint movie posters. He has handled advertising campaigns and done art for books and bands, including famous album covers for horror rock gods Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath. However it is his movie poster art that is his true love. His stated goal is to portray the heart of the film through his work.

Painted movie posters are a tradition that is old as cinema but one that is dying in the digital age. This makes Drew and his hands-on approach even more treasured.  When possible he goes on set while filming and even requests special photo sessions with the actors to work from. When he is not able to be involved on that level, he creates his art from viewings of the film, sometimes from a rough or incomplete cut.  Drew has even created poster art from just watching trailers, and in at least one instance, from seeing nothing at all – just receiving a desperate phone call with a few word description of the subject.

While most poster artists receive no recognition, having Drew “paint your movie” is considered an honor in Hollywood. He is a favorite of the biggest name directors working today: Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Frank Darabont, Guillermo Del Toro.

The titles of some of the movies Struzan has immortalized speak for themselves – the Star Wars films, the Indiana Jones films, the Back to the Future films, the Harry Potter films, even E.T. as well as the Muppets film series. These posters have been seen by billions (yes, billions) of people around the world from every culture in every nation.

40 Oz. followers and fans of genre films will also know his posters from Hellboy (2004), a duo of John Carpenter’s movies, Big Trouble in Little China (1986) and The Thing (1982) (which was painted in one night), Blade Runner: The Final Cut (2007), along with many others.  Fanboy favorite The Goonies (1985) and Kevin Smith’s ode to comic book geekdom Mallrats (1995) were both painted by Struzan as well.

The Thing

Art for Carpenter’s The Thing was painted in one night

Even though Drew is an unparalleled master at his craft, he is (like most in the movie business) not above “slumming it” when he has to, working on awesomely campy and cheesy films like  Masters Of The Universe (1987), Dreamscape (1984), Jake Speed (1986) and the Police Academy series. He even has the distinguishing (dis)pleasure of having done a poster for a movie that ended up being riffed by Mystery Science Theater 3000, Squirm (1976). To be fair, while the film is insufferably bad Squirm’s poster art is fantastic – a horrifying image of roots, worms and decay that recalls the style of Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream.

There are multiple coffee table and art-style books of Struzan’s work available and even a documentary film on him in the works. And of course if you have a few hundred thousand dollars to spare he does have his original art for sale on the internet. Without a doubt, whichever one of his works you would choose would look even more awesome hanging behind your couch than it did in the theater lobby.

Boxcar Wille
Written by Boxcar Wille
Boxcar Willie (aka America’s Favorite Hobo The Horror Hobo) is a horror, sci-fi and fantasy collector who avidly consumes movies, books, comics, music, magazines, toys, games and any other type of genre collectible you can think of (except Pogs). He can usually be found at home in Houston, TX attempting to organize his various collections. If you like to make lists of cool stuff, you are already his friend. Follow him on Twitter @BoxcarWill.