"I don't do special effects. I do characters. I do creatures."
In the summer of 1983, independent young filmmaker James Cameron
was confronted with the problem of convincingly turning an unknown Austrian bodybuilder called Arnold Schwarzenegger
into a killer metal skeleton peeling with rotting flesh from the future called the Terminator
Just when it seemed that James and Arnold were doomed to an embarrassment made out of an idea that no studio in Hollywood would touch, a makeup artist who gave Chewbacca's father Itchy his face in The Star Wars Holiday Special
and astoundingly refused to work on ET The Extra Terrestrial
, walked through the door.
His name was Stan Winston
(April 7, 1946 — June 15, 2008).
Stan took one look at James Cameron's pencil sketches, and wrapped the bodybuilder's face in liquid plaster. Out of the impression left by the massive Austrian's face, he meticulously carved a nightmarish visage of mechanical death out of clay.
In the fall of 1984, Sarah Connor, Kyle Reese, and thousands of film audiences watched in stunned horror as that same visage of death, now rendered in steel, walked fleshless out of a roaring inferno
. The rest is history.
For the last twenty years, Mr. Stan Winston held the honor of being the single most respected makeup artist and puppeteer in the film-making industry. When in doubt, he was the go-to guy if you needed the most horrifyingly realistic movie monsters. Aside from helping to get the career of James Cameron
off the ground, he was also a veteran collaborator with cinematic luminaries such as Steven Spielberg
, Tim Burton
, Michael Bay
, and even a music video or two (working with the late Michael Jackson
More than just a monster-puppeteer, Mr. Winston was also a virtuoso in the art of makeup, capable of making chameleons out of actors playing characters wildly different in appearance, or recreate heartbreakingly accurate injuries of the most horrific battles in human history. He went on with James Cameron
to create the visual effects company known as Digital Domain
First and foremost, Stan Winston considered himself a storyteller, with his creations as characters and actors, rather than props. In 2001 he was honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. By the time he lost his battle to cancer on June 15th, 2008, he had 4 Academy Awards, 2 Emmys and 15 other awards under his belt. His workshop has since been reformed as Legacy Effects
and largely stick to commercial work; but have been involved in several films and shows, such as Iron Man 2
, The Muppets
, Real Steel
, Dinner for Schmucks
, Cowboys and Aliens
, Grey's Anatomy
, Pair Of Kings
and even The Avengers
to name a few.
At his funeral, lifelong-friend Governor Schwarzenegger reverently thanked Mr. Winston, proclaiming that he would not have had the career that made him who he is without him. This appreciation is shared by Sigourney Weaver
, James Cameron
, Tim Burton
, Steven Spielberg
and the scores of mourning filmmakers who attended that day.
Have fun up there, Mr. Winston. Your glory will be remembered by filmgoers for generations to come.Notable Credits
- The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974): He and Rick Baker convincingly aged Cicely Tyson up through to age 110.
- The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978): Yes, even the greats have to start somewhere.
- The Wiz (1978): He did the makeup and costumes for all the characters, but most notably Michael Jackson's Scarecrow and Nipsey Russell's Tin Man.
- Dead & Buried (1981)
- Heartbeeps (1982): The robot makeup he created for Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters got him his first Oscar nomination, even though the movie bombed.
- The Thing (1982) (1982): While Rob Bottin is the man credited with most of the film's horrifying effects, the first transformation seen the the film, the transformation of the "dog thing", was done by Stan Winston, as Bottin was suffering exhaustion from his work schedule at the time. In fact, that was literally Mr Winston's hand inside the transformed dog's head, giving a doubly disturbing organic quality to the puppetry of its movement. Winston declined to have a credit on the film, as he didn't want to take praise away from Bottin's work.
- The Terminator (1984): The film that almost-literally made Arnold Schwarzenegger the man he is today.
- Winston would return for all three sequels and the theme park ride Terminator 2: Battle Across Time, making him the only person to have worked on all of the Terminator films.
- Aliens (1986): The Alien Queen; most realistic movie dragon, ever. First Oscar win.
- The Monster Squad (1987): A forgotten gem; watch it.
- Predator (1987): Saved the film at the eleventh hour — after the initial design of the creature by a different company proved to be a failure, Arnold Schwarzenegger recommended him for the job.
- Pumpkinhead (1988): His directorial debut.
- Edward Scissorhands (1990): Perhaps his best-known non-horror character piece.
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991): Yes, even the T-1000 is mostly his puppets rather than pure CGI.
- Batman Returns (1992): If one man can make Danny DeVito even MORE ugly, Stan is the man. Also, the cute animatronic penguins.
- Jurassic Park (1993): If you thought the Alien Queen was scary, you have not taken a visit to the T-Rex pen yet...
- Interview with the Vampire (1994): The Uncanny Valley corpselike pallor of the vampires, their retractable fangs and the astoundingly realistic puppet of Tom Cruise shrinking into a bloodless corpse after Kirsten Dunst slits his throat.
- Tank Girl (1995): Mutant kangaroos!
- Instinct (1999): A small project, but a very fulfilling one for Stan and the studio, as it allowed them to create gorillas that rivaled the apes created by Rick Baker in realism.
- The Sixth Sense (1999): Ghosts have rarely been this eerily convincing.
- Galaxy Quest (1999)
- A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001): Stan's best known tragic film after Edward Scissorhands.
- Pearl Harbor (2001): The chillingly realistic injuries created by his studio drove real-life survivors of the attack to tears at the film's premiere.
- Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
- Big Fish (2003): The monster maestro proves once and for all he can tell heartwarming fairy-tales as well as horror stories.
- Wrong Turn (2003)
- Zathura (2005): In one of his few kid-friendly efforts, Stan creates the suits/puppets of the creepy Lizard Warriors in this flick.
- Iron Man (2008): Tony Stark's invincible suits of iron.
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008): He and his crew created the eponymous Crystal Skulls along with the extra-dimensional beings and the mummies of the Mayans who worshipped them.
- Terminator Salvation (2009): One of his last films got him back where he started, and Winston's team had to opportunity to craft a variety of Terminators, from the Moto-Terminators to the snake/pirahna-like hydrobots. The film is dedicated to his memory.
- Avatar (2009): Despite having close to none of his trademark articulate and spectacularly lifelike puppets appearing in this film, the basis for the digital Na'vi are still designed and sculpted in clay the good-old-fashioned way by the Monster-Meister himself and his crew before being scanned into Weta-Digital's computers. Last major work of the master before passing away from leukemia.
- The Suffering: A game, not a movie, but he designed the monsters. This was one of his more creative endeavors.
- Music Video:
- Winston designed and made the masks for the character of "Mr. Roboto" from the Styx album Kilroy Was Here and its accompanying concert video, Caught in the Act Live (1982).
- Ghosts (1997): Designed makeups for Michael Jackson — including a white guy Fat Suit — and a troupe of dancers for the long-form video/Short Film, and actually directed the production. Unfortunately, due to the icky Does This Remind You of Anything? premise (it's a metaphor for Jackson's brushes with the law over child molestation allegations), it's fallen into Keep Circulating the Tapes territory in its complete form.
Tropes associated with Stan Winston: