This weeks CFQ Ultra-Lounge podcast features a talk on Dick Smith getting his honorary Oscar for the groundbreaking work he did as one of the greatest make-up artists in the history of the cinema. Cinefantastique Magazine helped paved the way for this award, by devoting a retrospective cover story to Mr. Smith and his (then) 35-year old career in the industry in our Summer, 1981 issue, as written by David Bartholomew.
So naturally it came as a pleasant surprise to hear producer/director J. J. Abrahams acknowledging Cinefantastique from the stage of the Academy Governor’s Awards on Saturday night, by mentioning that Dick Smith gave him a “signed” copy of Cinefantastique Magazine when they first met back in 1981!
You can watch the video of J. J. Abrahms tribute to Dick Smith at the Academy video highlights page of the Governor’s Awards HERE, along with separate videos featuring Linda Blair’s comments about working with Dick Smith on The Exorcist, and Rick Baker awarding Dick Smith with his honorary Oscar, followed by Mr. Smith’s acceptance speech.
Excerpt from the text of the tribute to Dick Smith given by J. J. Abrahms:
J. J. ABRAHMS: …One night I was in New York visiting my grandparents and at the airport I spotted a man waiting for his bags. I had seen pictures of Dick Smith before, and holy shit that looked like Dick Smith! — but how could I be sure?
I remembered that Mr. Smith had only four fingers on his left hand. It was like a Ludham novel. I slowly walked around the carousel trying to get a glimpse of his left hand, and there I saw it. I was never happier to see a missing digit in my life! (Dick Smith holds up his left hand, to laughter from the audience.) I was in a room with my hero. He was The Beatles to me, and no one in the terminal had a clue. I approached him and introduced myself and he was (if this is possible) even kinder in person!
He gave me a pre-release issue of Cinefantastique Magazine; Dick Smith was on the cover, they were featuring his work on Altered States. He signed the magazine and encouraged me to stay creative and keep making movies and if I wanted, to continue writing to him. My correspondence with Dick Smith went on for years.
A typical letter from him reads:
Dear J. J.:
I have just returned from Czechoslovakia doing an old age make-up for Amadeus.
The Hunger comes out on April 29 (1983).
Yes, I like (Tom) Savini’s book and his work on Creepshow.
Yes, cable was attached to plunger in large syringe instead of lever. Bicycle cable.
Keep up the good work,