Edlund has earned four Academy Awards for his visual effects work on Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and Return of the Jedi (1984), as well as nominations for Poltergeist, 2010, Ghostbusters, Poltergeist II: The Other Side, Die Hard, and Alien 3. He has also earned three Scientific and Engineering Awards. Earlier this year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented the coveted John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation to Edlund in recognition of his significant contributions to the Academy.
“Richard Edlund has made an indelible impression on the art and craft of filmmaking,” says Russ Alsobrook, ASC, chairman of the organization’s Awards Committee. “He is an innovative artist who has created magical visual effects for many memorable motion pictures.”
Edlund has also earned an Emmy for creating visual effects for the original television miniseries Battlestar Galactica (1978), and an additional nomination for Mike Nichols’ Angels in America (2003). He has created seamless visual effects for such memorable films as Fright Night, Solarbabies, Ghost, Species, Multiplicity, and Air Force One.
“Richard Edlund is an ASC member who continues to contribute to the progress of visual effects from purely photographic methods to today’s digital techniques,” says ASC president Daryn Okada. “He uses his cinematographer’s eye in the creation of his work.”
In 1968, Edlund became a rock-and-roll photographer, shooting many groups for publicity and posters, including at least 15 record album covers. Then Robert Abel lured Edlund back to Los Angeles in 1973 to work with him while he was pioneering the use of motion control technology to create television commercials. Two years later, John Dykstra recruited Edlund to join the special effects team that he was assembling for a new special effects company called Industrial Light Magic (ILM). Their mission was to create visual effects for Star Wars.
“I remember reading the words ‘trust in the force’ in the script for the first time, and trying to visualize how we could help George make the audience feel what that meant,” Edlund recalls. “It was like learning to think in a new language with infinite possibilities. I learned there aren’t any unbreakable rules. You have to trust your instincts. That’s what makes it an art.”
Edlund subsequently moved with ILM to Marin County in Northern California. He was supervisor of visual effects for the next two Stars Wars films and on Raiders of the Lost Ark and Poltergeist. He decided to move back to Los Angeles and met Doug Trumbull who had established Entertainment Effects Group (EEG), a cutting-edge visual effects company in Marina del Rey. Trumbull was ready to move on to another venture. Edlund agreed to take over, and completely rebuilt the 65 mm visual effects facility and subsequently renamed it Boss Film Studios. The new facility pioneered the evolution of hybrid visual effects in 2010 by integrating digital images of Jupiter taken by NASA into a scene of a spaceship approaching the planet.
Under Edlund’s leadership, Boss Films Studios created visual effects for another 40 major motion pictures through 1997, including Legal Eagles, Masters of the Universe, Cliffhanger, Batman Returns, Last Action Hero, Waterworld, Heat, and Starship Troopers. Currently, he’s working again with Nichols on Charlie Wilson’s War, which is slated for release in December.