HomeTop StoriesFrom starships to 'Batman' props, a Hollywood model maker's creations and collections...

From starships to ‘Batman’ props, a Hollywood model maker’s creations and collections up for auction

DALLAS (AP) — From an early model of the iconic alien mothership from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” to a complete Stormtrooper costume from “Star Wars,” bidding opens Friday on thousands of pieces that Hollywood modelmaker Greg Jein collected in his lifetime, including many created during his career spanning nearly half a century.

Jein’s collection, who died last year at age 76, will be offered by Heritage Auctions in Dallas next month. Jein, who had an Oscar and Emmy nominated career making miniature models, was also a collector of costumes, props, scripts, artwork, photographs and models from the shows he loved.

“He spent his entire life in the film industry at a time when practical effects and modeling were the way magic happened,” said Joshua Benesh, Heritage’s chief strategy officer. “It was the way starships traveled through space. The way aliens visited Earth was the way catastrophes and disasters were portrayed.”

Raised in Los Angeles, Jein began his career in the mid-1970s and spent the last few decades working on films such as ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, ‘The Hunt for Red October’ and ‘Avatar’. He was a fan of “Star Trek” from the beginning and later worked on pieces for the franchise.

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Jein was still early in his career when he led the team that created the mother ship for Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. appears gigantic – is now part of the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. But a tiny preliminary model, measuring about 12 inches tall, is among Jein’s creations that will be up for auction.

“It’s both incredibly complicated and incredibly simple,” said Benesh. “It has a kind of thrown together casual quality, but you see it and you know exactly what it is.”

Other creations from Jein’s career up for auction include a miniature wrecked starship from the 1997 film ‘Starship Troopers’ and a miniature cabin, airplanes and newspapers from Spielberg’s 1979 war comedy ‘1941’.

Also on offer is a dizzying array of items collected by Jein from the 1960s television show “Batman” and the “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” franchises. The ‘Batman’ memorabilia includes Batarangs, utility belts and a Bat radio. There are phasers, communicators, and tricorders from the 1960s “Star Trek: The Original Series,” along with plenty of costumes, including the formal tunic worn by William Shatner as “Captain Kirk.” Jein even had the Vulcan lute played by Leonard Nimoy’s ‘Mr. Spock’.

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Then there’s the “Red Leader” X-wing Starfighter miniature, complete with a pilot and the top of an R2 unit used in the 1977 movie “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”.

Lou Zutavern, Jein’s longtime friend and store supervisor, said Jein had a love of Hollywood history and a passion for collecting.

“He liked searching and finding things and making a trade,” Zutavern said. “It was part of the fun for him, but he also really wanted to make sure the stuff didn’t just end up in dumpsters.”

As a child, Jein was not only a collector, but also a demanding modeller, said his cousin Jerry Chang. Jein collected baseball cards, comic books and toys and bought one toy to play with and one to keep, Chang said.

When Jein was about 10, he surprised Chang and Chang’s brother after a visit to Disneyland by making a detailed replica of the theme park in his bedroom.

Jein graduated from California State University, Los Angeles in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in arts. After that, he spent some time taking graduate courses and eventually started his career in Hollywood.

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Chang said searching his cousin’s collection became “some kind of treasure hunt” after his death.

“You were moving a bunch of books and all of a sudden you found something and you said, ‘Oh my God, that sounds familiar,'” Chang said.

Chang said Jein loved his job and also had a passion for learning about a wide variety of subjects. After Jein died, his cousin discovered that his book collection covered topics from cooking to the military.

“He lived the life he wanted and he enjoyed it,” Chang said.

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