Legendary makeup artist Stuart Freeborn died at age 98 on 5 February 2013.
Stuart Freeborn was born in Leytonstone, London on 5 September 1914. He grew up in Beckenham, Kent. Even as a boy he was fascinated with creating characters, making himself up into a variety of characters from literature. He got his big break when he was only 21 and successfully passed himself off as Beckenham as Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. The end result was that he was interviewed by the police and got a job at Alexander Korda's Denham Studios. The next several years he worked uncredited on the films Rembrandt (1936), Wings of the Morning (1937), 21 Days (1940), and The Thief of Bagdad (1940). During World War II he was trained for the RAF, but was disqualified from service because of haemophilia.
In the Forties Mr. Freeborn worked on such films as The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), I See a Dark Stranger (1946), Green for Danger (1946), Oliver Twist (1948), Silent Dust (1949), Obsession (1949), and Madeleine (1950). In the Fifties he worked on such films as The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952), His Majesty O'Keefe (1954), The Dam Busters (1955), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), The Mouse That Roared (1959), Kidnapped (1960), Oscar Wilde (1960), and The Hands of Orlac (1960).
In the Sixties Mr. Freeborn would do some of his best known work. He did makeup for such films as Mr. Topaze (1961), The Young Ones (1961), Tarzan Goes to India (1962), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes (1965), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and Oh! What a Lovely War (1969). In the Seventies he worked on such films as 10 Rillington Place (1971), Blind Terror (1971), Young Winston (1972), Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975), The Omen (1976), Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), Superman (1978), Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Superman II (1980).
In the Eighties Stuart Freeborn worked on such films as The Great Muppet Caper (1981), Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983), Superman III (1983), Top Secret! (1984), King David (1985), Santa Claus (1985), and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987).
There can be no doubt that Stuart Freeborn was one of the greatest makeup artists of all time. Although he now best known for his work on the first Star Wars trilogy, he had established himself as a master of his craft long ago. In The Mouse That Roared he transformed Peter Sellers into three different characters. He did it again in Dr. Strangelove. He created the ape men in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Even before the Fifties and Sixties he did some remarkable work, transforming Alec Guinness into Fagin for Oliver Twist. Few makeup artists could create characters as convincingly as Stuart Freeborn could. Indeed, it is remarkable that while he was nominated for BAFTA for Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi, he was never nominated for an Oscar or any other BAFTA Awards. Not only should he have been nominated several times over, but he should have won several times over. Few makeup artists were as talented as Stuart Freeborn.