Stan Winston, Oscar-winning special effects master who designed the dinosaurs for “Jurassic Park” and the look of “The Terminator,” died Sunday evening at his Malibu home. He was 62.
The Oscar and Emmy-winning f/x and makeup designer died after a seven-year struggle with multiple myeloma, according to a representative from Stan Winston Studio.
Winston, who set the industry standard for robotic/animatronic creatures and prosthetic makeup, won four Oscars: a visual effects Oscar for 1986’s “Aliens,” visual effects and makeup Oscars for 1992’s “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and a visual effects Oscar for 1993’s “Jurassic Park,” for which he created animatronic dinosaurs that complemented the film’s digitally animated creatures.
The conference room at Winston’s Van Nuys studio was long one of the most effective sales tools any effects company could hope for. It was a combination museum and resume, with many of the most memorable movie creatures of recent decades — including the queen alien from “Aliens,” the Predator and even Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator — lunging toward the conference table on all sides.
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.’ ”
Gov. Schwarzenegger said: “The entertainment industry has lost a genius, and I lost one of my best friends with the death Sunday night of Stan Winston. Stan’s work and four Oscars speak for themselves and will live on forever. What will live forever in my heart is the way that Stan loved everyone and treated each of his friends like they were family.”
Winston was born in Arlington, Virginia and graduated from U. of Virginia at Charlottesville’s fine arts and drama programs.
His first love was acting, but he moved into makeup after arriving in Hollywood. He completed a three-year apprenticeship at Disney Studios, then set up Stan Winston Studio in the garage of his house in Northridge in 1972.
His early credits were mainly in television. He received five Emmy nominations and won for “Gargoyles” and “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.”
Producer Gale Anne Hurd, who worked with Winston on the “Terminator” franchise, “Aliens” and “The Relic,” recalled that she and helmer James Cameron first approached makeup artist Dick Smith to do the prosthetic effects on “The Terminator.” Smith declined and recommended Winston, saying, “One day, you’ll thank me.”
At the time, Winston’s movie credits were slender, with “The Wiz” foremost among them. Not long thereafter, though, he received an Oscar nomination for “Heartbeeps.” Hurd credits Winston with designing the prosthetic makeup for “The Terminator” before the film even had financing, and with making it possible to do the makeup effects on a small budget.
Winston soon became the foremost maker of animatronic and robotic creatures in the movie industry, as well as a leader in prosthetic makeup.
John Nelson, visual effects supervisor for “Iron Man,” said: “Stan was the man when it came to making those kind of prosthetic effects; he was the guy. If you look at the litany of other good people in the business, they tend to be people who worked for Stan.”
Winston’s animatronic creatures always maintained an advantage over digital effects: His creations could interact with the actors live on the set. He brought his love of performing to his creatures, too, making sure they took cues from the actors and responded in kind.
Winston was also a major force in increasing the visibility of the f/x and makeup industries. He pressed for greater recognition for makeup and creature effects artists and campaigned for the creation of a makeup Oscar. In 1993, he was a co-founder of Digital Domain, along with Cameron and Scott Ross. The shop became an early leader in digital vfx.
Dennis Muren, who supervised the digital effects on “Jurassic Park,” called Winston “a risk-taker” and said Winston’s animatronic work “was a perfect complement to the stuff that we were doing.
“When you put (Winston’s creatures and digital effects) together, the audience was confused, and sometimes we were, too, about who had done what.
“But Stan had always said, ‘It shouldn’t be all one or all the other; it should be a combination of the two.'”
Winston had been personally less active in recent years as digital vfx took a greater part of the available work and as his illness advanced, but his studio continued to work on films such as “Iron Man,” for which it provided the practical Iron Man suits, and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”
Hurd said of Winston: “He never looked at anything as a problem; it was always an opportunity. I never saw him defeatist, regardless of what may have happened. And he had an incredible childlike passion for films and for makeup effects and animatronics.”
Early on, Winston directed the 1988 horror pic “Pumpkinhead,” a cult favorite. Later, as demand for animatronic effects shrank, Winston also moved into producing, with several telepics and features to his credit. His name was attached to several projects in development, including “Area 51” for Paramount. At the time of his death, he was revamping his studio into the Winston Effects Group, comprising practical and digital effects.
Winston refused to discuss his illness outside his intimate circle, and many were surprised at news of his death.
Hurd said, “It’s so shocking when it’s someone so alive, with such joie de vivre and with so much more to contribute to our industry.”
He is survived by his wife, Karen; son Matt, an actor; daughter Debbie; a brother and four grandchildren.
Donations may be made to the Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research, Free Arts for Abused Children or the United States Fund for UNICEF.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)