Stan Winston – who built up a company that became one of Hollywood’s top suppliers of high-tech makeup and effects – died on Sunday evening of multiple myeloma. He was 62.
Stan Winston Studios contributed Oscar-winning prosthetic make-up and animatronic effects to such blockbusters as ALIENS, TEMINATOR 2, and JURASSIC PARK. When computer-generated imagery revolutionized the field of special effects, Winston moved with the times, supplying digital effects as well.
Winston sat in the director’s chair on a few occassions, for films such as PUMPKINHEAD and A GNOME NAMED NORM. He eventually formed a production company to develop his own projects to produce or direct. Among these was a series called Creature Features for cable TV, which took titles from old American International Pictures’ drive-in flicks from the ”50s and created new monsters and storylines.
Winston’s most recent credit was for this summer’s blockbuster IRON MAN, for which Stan Winston Studios provided the “practical” suit (although he was not personally involved with the shooting, due to illness).
Variety’s obituary included this quote from the director of JURASSIC PARK:
Steven Spielberg, who worked with Winston on several films, said in a statement, “Stan was a fearless and courageous artist/inventor and for many projects, I rode his cutting edge from teddy bears to aliens to dinosaurs. My world would not have been the same without Stan. What I will miss most is his easy laugh every time he said to me, ‘Nothing is impossible.'”
I met Stan Winston two or three times for various articles I wrote for Cinefantastique. He was an avid enthusiast, not only for his work but for the genre in general. He was proud of Stan Winston Studios and the many people who worked for them, and he loved extolling their virtues. I always got the impression he was an administrator who farmed out duties to his underlings while keeping himself in a supervisor position; he certainly made a point of crediting people who came up with ideas or did the hands-on work.
However the workload was divided, there can be no arguing with its results. Since the 1980s, Stan Winston Studios has been one of the top two or three names in Hollywood for make-up and effects; there are lots of companies that can provide good work, but when a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster was looking for the best monsters and mayhem that money could buy, they went to Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, or Stan Winston.
One of the most charming films on which Winston ever worked was THE MONSTER CLUB, a 1980s fantasy flick in which the classic monsters of yesteryear gathered to menace some kids in a small town. Winston provided new versions of Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, and the Gill-Man, creating a lovely tribute to the classic Universal Monsters from the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. One imagines that some day, years from now, some young make-up/effects artist, having grown up with Winston’s monsters, will perform a similar tribute.