Remembering Stan Winston

Stan WinstonIf you took in any horror or science fiction films over the past quarter century, you’re likely to have seen the handiwork of Stan Winston. The Richmond, Virginia native had studied drama, painting and sculpture at the University of Virginia-Charlottesville before coming to Hollywood in 1968 with the notion of being an actor.  Unable to find movie or TV roles, he turned his talents to stand-up comedy but it was his fine art background that wound up being his meal ticket. Winston was working as an apprentice in the make-up department of Walt Disney Studios where his gift for sculpture led to his first industry assignment – creating the look of the title creatures for Bill L. Norton’s classic TV horror film Gargoyles (1972).  Throughout the 1970s, Winston kept busy plying his trade on big budget studio fare (W. C. Fields and Me, The Wiz, The Island), grotty low budget shockers (The Bat People, Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde, Dracula’s Dog) and made-for-TV movies (The Diary of Miss Jane Pitman, Roots) alike.  Grateful for the work, he never discriminated between big and small projects.  “Rightly or wrongly, I consider myself an artist and I consider the work that we do art,” Winston told writer Paul Fischer in 2003.  “I am not a technician – I am techno-ignorant.  But I love creating characters and telling wonderful stories…  It’s the job that’s important, the story is important… I don’t do special effects.  I do characters.” 

Stan Winston on the set of THE TERMINATOR

It was during the 1980s that Winston earned his reputation as a master craftsman, a make-up maestro and an effects wizard.  He had started the Stan Winston Studio out of the garage of his Northridge home and it grew over the years into one of the most influential and popular make-up and animatronic effects firms in the world.  In quick succession, Winston created historic make-up effects for such classic genre films as Oliver Stone’s The Hand (1981), John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) and Starman (1984), James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984), Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Tobe Hooper’s Invaders from Mars (1986), Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), and Big Fish (2003), Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1994), Lost World: Jurassic Park II (1997),  AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001), Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire (1994), Jonathan Mostow’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) and Terry Gilliam’s Tideland (2005).  Winston also worked behind the scenes of such well-remembered films as Dead and Buried (1981), Friday the 13th Pt. III (1982), Predator (1987), The Monster Squad (1987), Predator 2 (1990), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), Mousehunt (1997), Small Soldiers (1998), Lake Placid (1999), Jurassic Park III (2000), Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor (2001) and the recent summer blockbuster Iron Man (2008). 

Stan Winston

Late in his career, Winston also turned to writing, directing and producing.  The eerie backwoods supernatural horror tale  Pumpkinhead (1988) was his first effort as a writer-director (the original has since spawned three sequels) and Winston returned to the forest primeval for Wrong Turn (2004), which he produced (and which has itself led to one sequel to date).  Trim, neatly bearded and looking not unlike a busy Hollywood character actor, Stan Winston was a multiple Academy Award, Saturn Award, Emmy and BAFTA Film Award winner but his greatest joy was his family.  He was surrounded by them when he died of multiple myeloma yesterday in his Malibu home at the age of 62.   Although he is gone, the creations of Stan Winston live on in our dreams, where they continue to inspire equal proportions of nightmares and wonder. 

Donations in the memory of Stan Winston may be made to the following charities:

Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research
9201 W. Sunset Blvd. Ste 300
West Hollywood, CA 90069

Free Arts for Abused Children
12095 W. Washington Blvd. #104
Los Angeles, CA 90066

United States Fund for UNICEF
333 East 38th Street
NY, NY 10016

8 Responses Remembering Stan Winston
Posted By Medusa : June 17, 2008 4:57 pm

Excellent tribute to such a talented man.

I will never forget his amazing, scary, exotic, erotic and completely perfect work on “Gargoyles”, one of the best TV movies ever.

Thanks for this, rhs.

Posted By Medusa : June 17, 2008 4:57 pm

Excellent tribute to such a talented man.

I will never forget his amazing, scary, exotic, erotic and completely perfect work on “Gargoyles”, one of the best TV movies ever.

Thanks for this, rhs.

Posted By brent : June 21, 2008 2:22 pm

There’s a lot of controversy regarding comments on IMDB that Mr. Winston was “the living embodiment of every wicked quality associated with Hollywood worldwide… his legacy is a lie”. Does anyone who KNEW him have any comments?
Aside from his personality (maybe), he left an idelible mark on late 20th century culture. STAR WARS alone would count, but… he left dozens of images as his testimony. R.I.P.

Posted By brent : June 21, 2008 2:22 pm

There’s a lot of controversy regarding comments on IMDB that Mr. Winston was “the living embodiment of every wicked quality associated with Hollywood worldwide… his legacy is a lie”. Does anyone who KNEW him have any comments?
Aside from his personality (maybe), he left an idelible mark on late 20th century culture. STAR WARS alone would count, but… he left dozens of images as his testimony. R.I.P.

Posted By RHS : June 22, 2008 10:04 am

There’s a lot of controversy regarding comments on IMDB that Mr. Winston was “the living embodiment of every wicked quality associated with Hollywood worldwide… his legacy is a lie”.

Whenever I want to feel depressed about the human race I visit the IMDb message boards. The spelling alone is enough to drive me to the needle but the general level of envy and the desperation on the part of the anonymous posters to mean something just breaks my heart (and not in a good way). I didn’t know Stan Winston but I’d bet you medals to navy beans that anyone resorting to the IMDb message boards to air a grievance about anyone doesn’t deserve a minute of your time. And personally, I’d take it as a great compliment if someone referred to me as the living embodiment of every wicked quality.” You just don’t get enough superlatives like that these days.

Posted By RHS : June 22, 2008 10:04 am

There’s a lot of controversy regarding comments on IMDB that Mr. Winston was “the living embodiment of every wicked quality associated with Hollywood worldwide… his legacy is a lie”.

Whenever I want to feel depressed about the human race I visit the IMDb message boards. The spelling alone is enough to drive me to the needle but the general level of envy and the desperation on the part of the anonymous posters to mean something just breaks my heart (and not in a good way). I didn’t know Stan Winston but I’d bet you medals to navy beans that anyone resorting to the IMDb message boards to air a grievance about anyone doesn’t deserve a minute of your time. And personally, I’d take it as a great compliment if someone referred to me as the living embodiment of every wicked quality.” You just don’t get enough superlatives like that these days.

Posted By brent : June 27, 2008 10:42 pm

“They’ll have to come up with a lot of new adjectives when I get back” – Carl Denham, King Kong (1933)

Posted By brent : June 27, 2008 10:42 pm

“They’ll have to come up with a lot of new adjectives when I get back” – Carl Denham, King Kong (1933)

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