Cantwell’s film credits included special photographic effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), technical dialogue for Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and computer graphics design for WarGames (1983). However, he was most recognized for his contributions to George Lucas on Star Wars, in which he designed and built the prototypes for the X-wing, TIE fighter, Star Destroyer, and Death Star.
Cantwell was born in San Francisco in 1932, and he suffered from tuberculosis as well as a partial retinal detachment when he was young. The cure, according to Cantwell, was to be confined to a dark room with a heavy vest on his chest so that he did not cough fits. “I spent nearly two years of my childhood immobilized in this dark room. Suffice it say, nothing else could stop me after that!”