Book Review: ‘Inside The Star Wars Empire – A Memoir’ By Bill Kimberlin

Author: Bill Kimberlin
Publisher: Lyons Press
Formats available: Hardback, eBook and Audiobook
Pages: 272 pages
Release date: 1st February 2018


Bill Kimberlin may refer to himself as “one of those names on the endless list of credits at the close of blockbuster movies.” In reality though, he’s a true insider on some of the most celebrated and popular movies and franchises of the past century. Jurassic Park. Star Trek. Jumanji. Schindler’s List. Saving Private Ryan. Even Forrest Gump. And perhaps most notably, Star Wars.

Inside the Star Wars Empire is the very funny and insightful tell-all about the two decades Kimberlin spent as a department director at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), the special effects studio founded by the legendary filmmaker George Lucas.


‘Inside the Star Wars Empire’ is the memoir of Bill Kimberlin’s career in film making and concentrates on his time at Industrial Light and Magic. During this career, he was involved in some of the movie industry’s most pivotal and ground-breaking developments in our lifetime. But the stories aren’t just about Bill and his career. He delves into his own family history and revealed the great business men in the late 1800’s with their entrepreneurial exploits.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the book, but after Bill had explained to me that it isn’t a chapter and verse biography of his life. Although it does go into his life and the events of it, he described it as a guide of how to survive in the industry. So, with that in mind, I started to read and couldn’t put it down!

What was meant to be a job for 8 months, turned into a 20-year career at one of, if not the greatest pioneering movie companies ever to exist? This is the first time that a member of staff from ILM has ever ventured into writing about their time at the company. There are some amazing facts and anecdotes in there that opens the curtains to what is a very closely guarded environment.

One of the most memorable scenes of Return of the Jedi has got to be where the TIE fighters swarm around the Rebel Fleet. This was known as ‘SB19’ or ‘Space Battle 19’ and this is shown in the video from YouTube at the start of this review. The meticulous work and the hours to create this scene is mind blowing. Below are some of the productions prints and work sheets that Bill used to create this iconic scene.

The story of creating ‘SB19’ is in the book, but so is his fascinating early exploits of trying to get his name known and get his breakthrough studio deal. There were many laugh out loud moments in the book and it also taught me, that if you need to make a phone call from a movie studio, always check that the phone kiosk isn’t a movie prop! (If you read the book, you will understand why!)

The list of movies that Bill has worked on is phenomenal. If an actor had the same list of movie credits for their career, they would have been the highest paid and most revered actor on the planet. There are many in this industry who go unknown to us all; they’re in that list of names that are on the screen while most of us shuffle out of the movie theatre or press stop on the recording we are watching at home before it even appears. This book proves they have their own stories to tell.

For me, it was something different and informative about a part of the movie making industry that I never truly understood. Thanks to this book, I now have a feel for what it is like to work within those hallowed halls of ILM, the advances made in movie making technology and the achievements of a highly talented and unique set of individuals. A highly recommended read to any Star Wars fan, but not only that, it is essential reading for anyone who ever wants to work in the movie industry.

Team Jedi News would like to thank Bill for allowing us to exclusively share some of his own personal photographs as part of this review. These photos are a just a small selection from the dozens of pictures in the book that complement the words so well.

‘Inside the Star Wars Empire – A Memoir’ by Bill Kimberlin is available in hardback and audiobook format. It retails at $24.95 and is available from Amazon, book stores online and on your high street.

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