His creatures are legendary. And so was he.
Sadly, the industry last month lost one of its pioneers and innovators: famed makeup artist, visual effects artist, director, producer, costume designer, and writer Stan Winston, who succumbed to cancer at the age of 62.
Winston’s career spanned four decades, though his mark on the industry will last for generations. In 1972, Winston, a struggling actor-turned-makeup artist, realized his true Hollywood calling, and established Stan Winston Studio.
It didn’t take long for the Emmy and Oscar nominations and awards to pile up for Winston’s makeup and effects work. First, he established himself in the broadcast world with the tele-film Gargoyles. Later, he placed his stamp in the burgeoning field of music videos with Styx's Mr. Roboto. Soon thereafter, he made a name for himself in Hollywood. Working alongside famed directors Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and Tim Burton, he crafted such timeless monsters as the metallic Terminator, the slime-coated Alien, and its bloodthirsty counterpart, Predator. He brought dinosaurs to life for Jurassic Park. He made the deformed Edward Scissorhands interesting and likable. He gave the grotesquely misshapen Penguin screen presence next to the sleek superhero Batman. His creations were more than just bits and pieces of plastic and metal molded together in an interesting way; his creatures had character.
As a true visionary, Winston, along with Cameron and Scott Ross, founded VFX facility Digital Domain. After a short period, Winston and Cameron left the studio, though not before releasing the top-grossing film of all time, Titanic.
While Winston's name is associated with a number of huge effects films, a good deal of his work was in animatronics and puppetry, not digital work, where he pushed the essence of non-living characters to a new level. Nevertheless, he was a master at merging practical effects with CG effects, as was the case in AI: Artificial Intelligence, Jurassic Park, and more. Today, his creations live on in films and at theme parks, including the 3D Terminator production mix of live action, animatronics, and effects Universal Studios. At the time of his death, Winston was working on Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins and the highly anticipated Avatar, and was said to be looking ahead to Jurassic Park 4.
Winston was a true artist, able to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. His work transcends time and place, bringing the past and future into the present. He made jaws drop. Audiences scream in terror. Men, women, and youngsters shudder and shiver in fear—and laugh in delight. With four Oscar wins and six Oscar nominations, his work can be found in many notable films from the 1980s to the present, including the current hit Iron Man, for which Winston designed the superhero’s metal suit.
Even though Winston never found fame as an actor, he indeed became a true film star, even a legend. While he never received accolades for acting, it was the performances by his own creations that won over audiences. And for all his work, his vision, and his innovation, Winston received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The introduction on his studio’s Web site provides a snapshot of how this larger-than-life person viewed his work: “We think of the work we do as art and the people who work here as artists. Our goal is to create images that are forever etched into your imagination.I And they will continue to live in our memory, just as he will.