Monday, June 16, 2008

Visual effects Wizard Stan Winston Passes On

Stan Winston, the master of special effects and make up who worked on films ranging from Aliens to Iron Man, passed yesterday at the age of 62. The cause was multiple myeloma, which he fought against for the past seven years.

Stan Winston was born on April 7, 1946 in Richmond, Virginia. As a child he loved puppetry, drawing, and horror films. He graduated from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville in 1968 where he studied sculpture and painting. He then attended California State University, Long Beach. He moved to Los Angeles, hoping for a career in acting, but found little work. He eventually accepted an apprenticeship at Walt Disney Studios in the make up department.

Winston's first on screen credit was for the cult television movie Gargoyles in 1972, where he worked on the make up. For the next few years Winston would work on make up for the TV movie Bat People, the TV movie The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman in 1974, and the feature film The Man in the Glass Booth in 1975 (his first feature film credit). In 1976 he received a credit for special effects for the first time, for the feature film W.C. Fields and Me.

For the next several years Winston would handle makeup for several low budget films and TV projects such as Roots . His big break would come in 1982, when Winston did additional make up effects for John Carpenter's remake of The Thing. Winston would go on to provide special effects for films such as Invaders From Mars and Predator. He would work in the make up department for such films as Edward Scissorhands and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. He directed his first film, Pumpkinhead, in 1989. It would go onto become a cult classic.

Arguably, Stan Winston came into his own in the Nineties, working on several upscale projects. Winston would do special effects for such films as Jurassic Park, Congo, The Relic, and Galaxy Quest. He would work in make up on Batman Returns, Interview with the Vampire, and the 1996 version of The Island of Dr. Moreau. The Naughts would see Winston's career continue to thrive, despite being diagnosed with multiple myeloma. He provided special effects for such films as Artificial Intelligence: AI, Jurassic Park III, Big Fish, and Iron Man. He worked in make up on such films as Pearl Harbour, Artificial Intelligence: AI, Constantine, and Tideland. Winston's last screen credit is on Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins, set for release in 2009.

Stan Winston won Oscars, for Aliens (Best Effects, Visual Effects), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (Best Make Up and Best Effects, Visual Effects), and Jurassic Park (Best Effects, Visual Effects). He was nominated for many more.

Winston was very much a legend and had every reason to be. He was both a wizard in make up and special effects, making him an almost singular individual. What is more, he was equally adept at both. John Dykstra is a wizard of special effects. Ben Nye was a master at make up. But Stan Winston was one of the few men who could do both. It is so very sad that he had to die while at a relatively young age. He was truly one of the legends in the film industry.

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