Tuesday, June 17, 2008

R.I.P. Stan Winston [1946-2008]

I am faced today with the unavoidable task of writing a goodbye to one of my childhood heroes. Before I wanted to be a writer or a comic book artist, I wanted to be Stan Winston. As far as I am concerned he was the greatest movie magician of the post-Star Wars era. For all the amazing comic book artists that made me want to go pick up a pencil, every time I draw something what I really hope it looks like is one of Stan Winston's creations. He was a four-time Oscar-winning master of make-up and visual effects, but it's in physical effects and animatronics that he wears the crown. If you don't know his name, then you surely know his work...

I learned about Mr. Winston through two of my favorite movies when I was in my early teens: James Cameron's Aliens and Terminator 2. When I found out that the same man was responsible for making these robots and creatures look so real, that was it: I wanted a career in special effects. I subscribed to Cinefex magazine and was all set to go to college at 14. Then I started reading comics...

I never mattered though, because I still love this work. I'll say it again: Winston made everything real. Whether it was hunter aliens with crab faces or dinosaurs tipping over trucks, he did something that computer effects just couldn't do, and note to George Lucas, still can't.

Looking over his credits, it was suprising to know he did far more than I thought he had. Edward's Scissorhands - that was Stan. The creatures of hell in Constantine - Stan. The only good thing about Spielberg's A.I., that robot bear - also Stan.

And if the aliens and terminators weren't enough for me as a teen, it was Jurassic Park that blew me away most. I think it was because everyone was talking about the incredible leaps forward in CGI, but to me the best scene in that movie is the sick Triceratops. Winston did all the physical effects for the movie, and when the walk up to that body, and the belly heaves with breath, well, you'd think dinosaurs were really back on earth.

And his genius extended to the very end. When Jon Favreau made the brilliant decision to make as much of Iron Man without CGI as possible, he turned to Stan Winston. Winston made the suits, and Tony Stark's escape from the desert cave in the original armor will stand as one of Winston's high points forever.

And so I say goodbye to one of my heroes, but am confident in the fact that his legacy will stay eternal in the history of film.
- IMDB news story
- IMDB credits

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