Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Stan Winston

Really sad to hear that Stan Winston has died, such a great loss. I didn't know him, never met him, but every time I saw him talking, in interviews or making-ofs, he just came across as someone who really, really, *really* loved what he did, and put everything of himself into it. Without him, the films he worked on would still have been made, but they wouldn't have *looked* the same.

The Terminator effects. The dreadlocked, ugly motherfucker that is the Predator. The aliens in Aliens. The physical, non-CGI dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. Edward Scissorhands' scissorhands. So many more.

When I was growing up, I loved watching TV shows about movie making, especially the stunt and special effects ones. I was fascinated by how they did what they did, and would tape them to re-watch them over and over. The artistry, the care, the attention to detail, the chance to play with the coolest toys in the world. Even if it was a bad film, if someone good was doing the makeup or effects or stunts, it was still worth watching. I've never seen the movie "Stick", have no idea if it's any good or not. But thanks to making-of shows, I've seen the high fall in the movie, performed by Dar Robinson, using the decelerator cable system he developed, about 20 times.

Sure, writers don't get respect in the movies, we know how it is. But at least we get our name on the poster and in the opening credits (well, usually). There are a lot of other unsung heroes behind the scenes that I guarantee you most moviegoers have never heard of, names that are usually in the end credits. Dar Robinson, mentioned above, an amazing stuntman, if you've ever seen his name, it was probably only at the end of Lethal Weapon, which was dedicated to him. Yakima Canutt, probably the most famous stuntman ever, who developed nearly all of the great horse-related stunts you've ever seen, and went on to create the chariot race sequence in Ben Hur. Dick Smith, self taught special makeup effects maestro, who did the special blood effects and old-age makeup in The Godfather, made Linda Blair vomit and appear possessed in The Exorcist, flung the gore around in the Taxi Driver finale, and trained a young Rick Baker, who went on to make you believe a man could turn into a wolf. Remy Julienne and his team, stunt driver and stunt arranger for the car chases in The Italian Job (the original), Goldeneye, several other Bond movies, with a slick, tight driving style so good, I can actually recognise it just by watching the way the cars move on screen.

I know that most of you reading this won't have heard of any of these people. And they didn't get into the business to become famous, they just wanted to put something amazing on screen, to show you things you've never seen before. So it doesn't matter that most people don't know their names. But everyone remembers their work - did you see that bit when the guy jumped off the horse, when he fell off the building, when her head span around and she puked like a fire hose, when he shot that guy's fingers off, when the cars jumped off that building - and that's their reward.

But still, I'm glad to see that Stan was, and is, getting the recognition and respect he deserved. And the movies - and audiences - will miss him.


Dim said...

For a long time I wanted to work in special effects, back in the days when that meant spending half your time making the tiny models and the other half blowing them up. I even got to visit a tv special effects company in Hampshire when my first tv job went south and I was looking for work. they weren't looking for a know-nothing bozo, however. Always sad to hear of the loss of a specialist, whatever the trade, and sadder still when the real genius of what they did would pass by the majority of the public. If it was really good, you don't notice it was an effect.

Anonymous said...

Stan Winston was amazing at what he did. All those movies you mention were not only great because of the writing, but because his talent made them all the more memorable. He will be missed.

Peter Pan said...

I had no idea Stan had passed away. 62 is no age really.
As I understand it, he developed a lot of the stuff at the Universal Studios theme parks too.
He will be missed.