I’ve been off ill for a couple of days so apologies for the delay in posting this but last night I saw the very sad news that Stan Winston had passed away at the age of 62.
Even if you aren’t a huge film fan you probably know some of his work: the robots in the Terminator series, the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and the alien colony in Aliens – all were created by Stan Winston studios.
In his career he won a total of four Oscars and set a new standard in make-up, puppets and visual effects.
Director and longtime collaborator James Cameron issued this tribute:
He ran at full throttle, in both work and play, and was a man of kindness, wisdom and great humour.
He was a kid that never grew up, whose dreams were writ large on the screens of the world.
I am proud to have been his friend, and I will miss him very deeply.
Iron Man director Jon Favreau has said:
He was experienced and helped guide me while never losing his childlike enthusiasm.
He was the king of integrating practical effects with CGI, never losing his relevance in an ever-changing industry.
California governor and former Terminator star Arnold Schwarzenegger said:
The entertainment industry has lost a genius, and I lost one of my best friends.
Here is a look back at the highlights of his career.
THE TERMINATOR SERIES
Although his company was founded in the 70s and achieved a level of recognition in the industry it was in 1984 that his work broke through globally with The Terminator.
A surprise sci-fi hit, it was the tale of a merciless cyborg assassin sent back in time to kill the mother of a future rebel leader.
It propelled director James Cameron and star Arnold Schwarzenegger to fame and still stands as a landmark action film of the 80s.
One of the enduring images from the film is the T-101 cyborg, which we see in the future sequences and in the later stages of the film as the Terminator loses his outer skin.
This video is from a making of film shot in 1984, showing how Winston’s team operated the robot in a chase sequence:
After the success of that film, a sequel was inevitable and in 1991 came Terminator 2: Judgment Day which took visual effects to another level with the now famous T-1000 liquid metal android.
On this film Cameron married groundbreaking CGI by ILM with make up and mechanical work from Winston’s team – the combination redefined visual effects in cinema.
Check out this segment of a 2002 documentary about the film – Stan makes an interesting point about art and technology at 5.01:
Although Cameron didn’t return for Terminator 3, Winston did and made the T-1 robots that feature near the end.
When James Cameron made Aliens, the 1986 the sequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien, the story called for colony of creatures rather than just the single beast of the first film.
Given that this was made in the mid-80s before the CGI revolution heralded by The Abyss and T2, it is a testament to Winston’s work that the alien creatures still look so damn good.
Here is a video of Winston, Cameron and their team talking about the re-creating H.R. Giger’s original monster for the sequel:
In 1987 Winston helped create another a memorable movie monster in Predator.
Like Aliens it was a beast from another world and like Terminator it also starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, only this time he was the good guy.
The visual camoflaugue effects and the costume were highly impressive, in some ways a foretaste of the T-1000 in Terminator 2.
The actor who played the Predator was Kevin Peter Hall – someone also now sadly no longer with us. Check out Stan’s warm tribute to him in this video:
After Terminator 2, visual effects went into a new era with morphing and digital CGI becoming common place.
But in 1993 Steven Spielberg‘s bockbuster Jurassic Park took it even further.
The recreation of dinosaurs was a triumph, with remarkable work from ILM and Winston’s team in making the prehistoric creatures seem believable.
For four years (until Titanic in 1997) it was the highest grossing movie of all time and was another blockbuster in which Winston had a key role.
Here is a segment from the making of the film with Stan and Spielberg discussing the challenges of how to make dinosaurs look real on screen:
Winston also worked on films such as Edward Scissorhands (1991), Small Soldiers (1998) A.I. (2001), the Jurassic Park sequels, Big Fish (2003), Wrong Turn (2003), Constantine (2005) and most recently Iron Man.
For the first blockbuster of this summer his team worked on the creation of the different Iron Man suits.
Here is a video of him signing autographs and joking around with fans from Comic Con last year:
Stan had been battling multiple myeloma (a plasma cell cancer) for for seven years and on Sunday he died at home in California surrounded by his family.
> BBC News, New York Times, LA Times and report on his death
> Stan Winston at the IMDb
> Official site for Stan Winston Studios
> Check out a series of fine tributes to Stan at Aint It Cool News with contributions from James Cameron, Joe Dante, Jon Favreau, Jonathan Liebesman and Frank Darabont.
> Green Cine Daily has many useful links to other tributes
> Cinematical with a list of Winston’s greatest creations
> Check out The Winston Effect: The Art and History of Stan Winston Studio – a book by Jody Duncan about Stan’s career that was published by Titan in 2006 (you can buy it Amazon here)