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Very Special Effects

Aa_stanwinstonAfter 300 pages of  hideous monsters and prehistoric creatures (which he created), Stan Winston closes his book, “Winston  Effect — The Art and History of Stan Winston Studio, ” with a picture of himself and son Matt seated in directors’ chairs on an empty sound stage. “I came out to Hollywood to be an actor,” Stan admitted to me. “My son is the actor I came out to be.” Matt, who is currently seen in “Little Miss Sunshine,” will be a regular in David Milch’s next HBO series, “John from Cincinnati.” 

“I had to fight my parents. I didn’t want to be a doctor or lawyer,” Stan admits. And has since won countless awards, including Oscars (for “Aliens”, “Jurassic Park” and two for “Terminator 2”)  and Emmys among the others for effects, visual effects, and makeup. His Stan Winston Studio employs 150 and they are preparing for production on “low-budget horror-psychological drama films for its banner. “It’s the genre of movie that I grew up with — classics from Universal. Like Spencer Tracy in ‘Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde,’ ‘Lon Chaney Aa_wolfman_1 Jr. in “The Wolf Man’ and Boris Karloff in ‘Frankenstein‘.  Low-budget horror movies are the keystone of our movies. People want a little scare and then come out of the theaters they see everything is all right. Horror movies are just to scare you a little and comedies are to make you laugh.” He has finished filming “Skinwalkers” and “The Deaths of Ian Sone,” which he calls “a true psychological horror story.” He promises a new technology. You see the characters despite the makeup and digital effects. They are ‘tweaked a little more but still maintain the character of the actor. It’s not gratuitous fantasy.”

The finale of the book lists (15 rows) of “The brilliant talent that made it (the Winston Studio) happen.” And he talks generously of the directors . “Steven Spielberg is the best director of all time because of his body of work. From ‘Jaws’ to E.T. to ‘Indian Jones’ to ‘Close Encounters’—‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Schindler’s List’ in the same year!” He also praises Jim Cameron as the man “cursed with a vision. ‘Aliens,’ ‘”Terminator 2,’  ‘Titanic.’” And Tim Burton for “Edward Scissorhands,” — “You have to be in that director’s mind so that when I see Johnny Depp, I see what Burton has in his mind. It has been a blessing for me to stretch Aa_terminator_1 with them (the directors), my work is the result of a relentless push by the directors with no compromise. They are the brilliant talent that a made it happen. I was just the common denominator. “

He is  thrilled with this book,  by  writer  Jody Duncan, who takes Winston back to his  makeup beginnings, like his first film, “W.C. Fields And Me” in 1976 when I first met him on  the set.  He remained friends with Rod Steiger up to his death. He remains friends with all of those with whom he’s worked. He still goes Harley riding on weekend with Arnold Schwarzenegger, with whom he first worked on “The Terminator” and also rides weekly with James Cameron, who writes a glowing foreword. For the book (Titan, $49.95) is a joy to keep re-reading and reviewing. It is a reminder of what Winston told me, “Our business is an important art form. It is also an education. It teaches us where professors and teachers cannot.”    

NOTE: I’m off to the Kennedy Center Honors this weekend and to report to you all the colorful happening when showbiz meets Washington.