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Monday, June 16, 2008

Stan Winston 1946-2008

One of Hollywood's all-time greatest creature creators has left us--a man whose groundbreaking and prolific special effects work has earned him a spot amongst the likes of Ray Harryhausen, Willis O'Brien and Jack Pierce. Certainly the creations he brought to the screen are just as indelible as any of theirs, chief amongst them being the Terminator and the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park.

Stan Winston came to Hollywood in 1968, and got his first experience as as assistant in the makeup department at Walt Disney Studios. He would come to be known primarily as a maker of monsters, with his first work being on the 1972 TV movie Gargoyles.

To the realm of horror, he contributed the likes of The Entity, The Monster Squad, Leviathan, Edward Scissorhands, The Ghost and the Darkness, Interview with the Vampire, The Relic, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Lake Placid, End of Days and Constantine. He also made uncredited assists on Friday the 13th Part III and The Thing. Beyond the genre, his work can be found in films as wide-ranging as The Wiz, Heartbeeps, Starman, Predator, Tank Girl, Invaders from Mars, Batman Returns, Congo, Small Soldiers, Inspector Gadget, Galaxy Quest, Pearl Harbor, AI, Big Fish and this summer's blockbuster Iron Man. His work on Aliens, Jurassic Park and Terminator 2: Judgement Day earned him Academy Awards.

Although he worked in several genres, Winston had a special love for horror films. In fact, his pet project was the underrated 1988 monster flick Pumpkinhead, which he wrote and directed. He also produced recent chillers Wrong Turn and The Deaths of Ian Stone. Here's a great quote from the man himself on the subject:

"People who are afraid to go to horror movies are generally afraid their whole lives. People say to me, 'Do you have nightmares?' I never have nightmares! And I go to movies and see the most bizarre things in the world, and go... Wow that is really sick, how fun is that! And I don't have to carry it around. I think that's very healthy."

Winston was remembered today by his greatest collaborator, James Cameron. Together, these two men brought to life one of the most iconic and influential special effects creations in movie history, the animatronic killing machine of The Terminator. Cameron sent the following message this afternoon to Ain't It Cool News:

"Stan was a great man. I'm proud to have been his friend, and his collaborator on what for both of us, was some of our best work. We met in pre-production on Terminator in 1983, and quickly sized each other up as the kind of crazy son of a bitch that you wanted for a friend. We've stayed friends for over a quarter of a century, and would have been for much longer if he had not been cut down.

"We've lost a great artist, a man who made a contribution to the cinema of the fantastic that will resound for a long long time... We all know Stan's work, the genius of his designs. But not even the fans necessarily know how great he was as a man. I mean a real man --- a man who knows that even though your artistic passion can rule your life, you still make time for your family and your friends.

"I spoke with Stan by phone Saturday morning, and apparently it was one of the last conversations he had. Incredibly, in retrospect, he was full of life, you'd never have known he was at death's door. We talked for a long time about all the fun times, and all the dragons we'd slain together. He said that once you've shown something is possible, everybody can do it. What was important was being first. Breaking new ground.

"Well that's just what he did his whole career, and today's creature and character effects business uses the techniques he developed every single day. He inspired a generation of fantasy effects geeks, and his legacy will be found in their dreams up on the screens of the future, not just in the films he worked on directly."

Not one to rest on his laurels, Winston was still very much active the field he pioneered. He was in the midst of work on the fourth Terminator film, and was all set to get started on Jurassic Park IV when he succumbed to bone cancer Sunday night at the age of 62.

I'd like to close out with one last quote that speaks to Cameron's comments on Stan Winston, the man. There's a truth to it that so many of us may often forget, to our great detriment. Yet it remains true nonetheless:

"There's nothing more important to me in my life than my family, and nothing will ever take over. I believe that's why the work shows as well as it [does], because my work is not a sacrifice. My work is a joy. I'm not sacrificing my family for my work. I go in and I love what I do. I love nothing more than my family."


gord said...

I was honestly completely shocked and teary eyed at the news.

I just watched Jurassic Park two days ago and was marveling to my friend (as I always do when I watch it) that it is in my mind, still one of the greatest pieces of movie making magic. It has, the most amazing mixture of effects, and live action models. And it's often difficult to tell the two apart.

Not only do I still feel this way today, but I felt the same exact way, 15 years ago when as a little boy I was completely captivated by the film. And it was ALL Stan Winston's doing since there's no way I could wrap my head around the wordy dialogue. I just absolutely loved the Dinosaurs.

It's also sad but ultimately wonderful given his amazing skill that he has also had a hand in creating many more of my faovurite movies.

RIP Stan.

cindy said...

i missed that news, how very sad. his is a huge loss to the world.

kindertrauma said...

excellent quotes! thanks for this great salute. R.I.P.S.W.!

B-Sol said...

You're welcome. A shame it had to be written.

TarmanZombie said...

I came across this on google...just felt I had to add, even though it's no doubt been said a million times, that the man was a legend and will be sorely missed.

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