Special Effects Master Stan Winston Dies
Oscar winner was 62
June 17, 2008
Stan Winston, the Oscar-winning special-effects artist who created the animatronic dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park,” the slimy 14-foot alien queen in “Aliens” and the liquid-metal assassin in “Terminator 2,” died Sunday at his home in Malibu, California. He was 62.
The cause was multiple myeloma, said a spokesman for Stan Winston Studio.
Although he created some of the most famous special effects in movie history, Mr. Winston insisted that he cared less about technical wizardry than he did about storytelling. “It’s not about technology,” he once said. “It’s about writers writing wonderful stories with fantastic characters and me being able to create a visual image that’s beyond what you would expect.”
Courtesy of Mr. Winston, the unexpected leapt from the screen in dozens of films. He created the extraterrestrial assassin who hunts Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Predator,” the hands of “Edward Scissorhands” and the Penguin (from the neck up) in “Batman Returns.”
Mr. Winston won four Oscars for his film work and in 2001 he became the first special-effects artist to receive a star in the sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard.
Stan Winston was born in Arlington, Viriginia, and as a child was fascinated with puppets, monster movies and special effects. Disneyland’s animatronic Abraham Lincoln only deepened his obsessions. He earned a degree in art at the University of Virginia then set out for Hollywood.
After seeing “Planet of the Apes,” he entered a Disney apprenticeship program and became a makeup artist in 1972. His work on the television movie “Gargoyles” won him an Emmy Award, as did his makeup effects for “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” in which the title character ages from 19 to 110.
In the early 1980s, Mr. Winston entered into a collaboration with James Cameron, the director of the “Terminator” films and “Aliens.” His creepy exoskeleton effect for the villain in the first “Terminator” film inspired a host of imitations.
His second collaboration with Mr. Cameron, on “Aliens,” earned him his first Academy Award, in 1986. He would receive three more: two for “Terminator 2: Judgment Day (special effects and makeup) and one for “Jurassic Park.”
In 1988, Mr. Winston directed his own film, “Pumpkinhead,” in which a rural father summons an ancient demon to wreak vengeance on the city slickers who accidentally kill his son. He teamed up with Mr. Cameron for “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and created a protean villain resembling quicksilver that was able to transform itself into almost anything.
Mr. Winston returned to dinosaurs in “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “Jurassic Park III.” And again with Mr. Spielberg, he contributed special effect to “A.I.,” notably Teddy, a walking, talking animatronic teddy bear.
In 2001, Mr. Winston produced five films for the HBO series “Creature Features,” a tribute to the cheaply made horror films of the 1950s. At the same time he started Stan Winston Creatures, a toy company whose first line was based on characters in the Creature Features series.
More recently, he contributed to “Iron Man,” released earlier this year, and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. He also worked on the unreleased films “Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins,” “G.I. Joe,” “Shutter Island” and Mr. Cameron’s “Avatar.”
He is survived by his wife, Karen; a son, Matt, of Encino, California; a daughter, Debbie Litoff, of Woodland Hills, California; and four grandchildren.