Good night, Stan
June 16, 2008 12:12 PM   Subscribe

Legendary special effects artist Stan Winston has passed away from cancer at the age of 62. From Mr. Roboto to the Terminator to Iron Man, he leaves an almost unparalleled body of work.
posted by dersins (62 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by cazoo at 12:15 PM on June 16, 2008

I was posting this myself. Caught it on preview. This makes me pretty sad as he was responsible for a lot of the movie "magic" that fueled my adolescence. He will be much missed as the lights go down in the theater.
posted by skewedoracle at 12:16 PM on June 16, 2008

posted by Pastabagel at 12:17 PM on June 16, 2008

I was just coming over here to see if this had been posted yet. I was hoping that it wasn't true (I'm always a little wary of online obits until they hit the major outlets). We've lost one of the true greats. The man was a genius.
posted by lysistrata at 12:17 PM on June 16, 2008

This is much more devastating to me than I would have thought.
posted by Brainy at 12:20 PM on June 16, 2008

posted by Brainy at 12:20 PM on June 16, 2008

Damn, damn, damn. I've gotten to shake Tom Savini's hand, but I never had the chance to thank Stan Winston. He was one of the all-time great creature designers, no doubt about it. His Gill-Man from The Monster Squad is a personal favorite.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:23 PM on June 16, 2008

Aliens, Predator, Terminator, Jurassic Park, Tank Girl...

This man invented my childhood. When I dreamed of things that were great and awesome I was imagining stuff that Stan Winston had designed.

To say that he will be missed would be an understatement.
posted by quin at 12:25 PM on June 16, 2008 [8 favorites]

posted by churl at 12:30 PM on June 16, 2008

Oh, wow... he'll be missed, that's for sure.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 12:33 PM on June 16, 2008

Oh, no! He was one of my idols.

posted by brundlefly at 12:33 PM on June 16, 2008

This man invented my childhood.

Well put, quin. There's a lot of stuff in my imagination that's there because of Stan.

posted by hifiparasol at 12:33 PM on June 16, 2008

posted by pixlboi at 12:33 PM on June 16, 2008

A favorite Stan Winston moment in The Relic: the cthugha is literally a B-movie monster on steroids, an amalgam of lion, salamander, rhinoceros beetle, you name it, galumphing after everyone with a brainstem.

This hugely massive beast is chasing our heroine every which way in the basement of a museum. Cleverly, she lures into into one area where she douses it with flammable chemicals and sets it ablaze.

Good plan! Now she's being chased by a colossal beast that's on fire!

A horror brought to utterly convincing life by Stan Winston and his crew. Thanks, Stan.
posted by SPrintF at 12:35 PM on June 16, 2008

posted by Snyder at 12:36 PM on June 16, 2008

posted by grubi at 12:37 PM on June 16, 2008

To this day, I still marvel at how real the Alien Queen looks, and how fake every alien has looked in every sequel. I'd say blame Gillis and Woodruff, but really let's proclaim just how amazing Winston was at pulling it off.
Sure it's a blurry line where Cameron ends and Winston begins, but really we all know it was the team of both of them
posted by Brainy at 12:39 PM on June 16, 2008

posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:40 PM on June 16, 2008

He was a master craftsman in arguable one of the hardest crafts ever invented. Film is, for the most part, a medium that relies on realism, which my theater professor endlessly liked to define as "an accumilation of surface details that work together to make the unreal seem real." It's one thing to build a door or plug in a phone and say "This is an office."

It's another thing altogether to build something that's never existed before, and, in some instances, never even been imagined before, and to do so with such skill that the audience happily suspends their disbelief and says, yes, in a realistic world, this act of fantasy can nonethless exist.

He was one of a long line of artists who made it possible to put fantasy on film. What a loss.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:43 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by infinitewindow at 12:44 PM on June 16, 2008


No, no, no, no, no! This is unacceptable. Simply unacceptable.

There's no stating it better than quin - Winston invented my childhood, too. His monsters were the gold standard, the absolute best.

I was so pleased to hear that he would be building Iron Man for the recent film. Even before the stills were released, I knew old shellhead would be safe in Winston's hands. And I was right. Iron Man looked excellent and utterly plausible.

Oh man. No, no, no. Not funny, God.

posted by EatTheWeek at 12:46 PM on June 16, 2008

posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:47 PM on June 16, 2008

I was also surprised by how sad this made me. It was always just so incredibly pleasant knowing he was out there making monsters. He was responsible for so many of my daydreams and nightmares. Thanks, Stan.
posted by Nathaniel W at 12:55 PM on June 16, 2008

I am shocked by this news. Even though I never worked with him directly, lots of folks at ILM had the nicest things to say about him, and some close mutual friends always told me I should meet him, that we'd get along famously. I'll not have that opportunity now. He was quite the perfectionist, and his talents were intense. He's a Titan of the effects world, and he will be sorely missed. His work will live on, so there's a bit of comfort in that fact. Still... 62, too young. Oh, man.
posted by dbiedny at 12:57 PM on June 16, 2008

He was one of the good ones. I remember his name from my days of reading Famous Monsters of Filmland, Cinefantastique, etc. One of his earliest (if not the first) credited makeup jobs was for the TV movie Gargoyles. It was pretty intense to my nine-year old self.

A lot of his stuff didn't seem to be of the Tom Savini, Rob Bottin OMG EXPLODING HEADS type of special effects we enjoyed as teenagers. But his work was always for solid and sometimes unnoticeable in a good way. Well, as unnoticeable as a gill-man could be. Kinda what Astro Zombie said upthread.
posted by marxchivist at 12:58 PM on June 16, 2008

Seeing Aliens on the big screen was hands-down one of the greatest movie going experiences of my life (hell, one of the experiences of my life, period). I left the cinema literally gasping for air. And large part of that was due to Winston.

He cruelly was a master craftsman. RIP indeed.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:01 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

damn... truly. Though I was thinking how cruel to go up to that great sfx workshop in the sky at only 62
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:04 PM on June 16, 2008

Well, if God ever needs someone to really do the deed as far as designing stuff like the End of Days and Revelations and so on, he will have to consult with Stan on it in order to do it right.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:08 PM on June 16, 2008 [4 favorites]

I was referring above to his pre-Terminator and Aliens work. I was an adult when I saw Aliens and had much the same reaction as fearful symmetry.
posted by marxchivist at 1:10 PM on June 16, 2008

I wish I would have been old enough to see Aliens on the big screen when it first came out.

I had to settle for VHS, mono sound and a 19" TV, and it still blew my mind.

My dad used to tell this story about how he was sitting in the theater watching it for the second time and it was to the point where Ripley and Hicks and Bishop and Newt had arrived back at the Sulaco and everything was smiles and hugs and relief and a man and a woman in the audience got up and started walking up the aisle toward the exit.

My dad leaned over and whispered to them, "You don't want to leave quite yet!"

They did not heed his warning.

Bye, Stan. You made most of my nightmares possible.
posted by kbanas at 1:16 PM on June 16, 2008

kbanas, I also wish I could have seen Aliens on the big screen. Alien has been showcased at several theatres, plus the re-release...but Aliens, not around NYC.
posted by Brainy at 1:24 PM on June 16, 2008

posted by doctor_negative at 1:24 PM on June 16, 2008

In 1999, Winston was the recipient of the Virginia Film Award at the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville, home of his alma mater. Among his other appearances that weekend, he introduced a screening for 20 Million Miles to Earth, noting the influence of Ray Harryhausen's special effects work on his own career. I can remember him being very gracious, answering audience questions and talking to fans, at what was probably a super hectic time for him professionally. He was a class act, no doubt. I will think of him tonight while I watch it again with some popcorn and memories.
posted by gargoyle93 at 1:48 PM on June 16, 2008

I can still vividly remember every moment of walking home alone in the dark as a kid after watching Pumpkinhead at a friend's house. That's probably as positive a review for a horror movie as I can imagine.
posted by Adam_S at 1:50 PM on June 16, 2008

posted by Z303 at 1:56 PM on June 16, 2008

/pours booze on ground, sets fire to it.

Oh, and CGI Monsters? Fuck that shit.
posted by Artw at 2:07 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dude worked on three of this weekend's top seven box office draws.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:37 PM on June 16, 2008

Well, that sucks. It's sad to see the old-school guys start to pass on. CGI just can't get it done as well as having a physical thing for the actors to bounce off of.

posted by Thorzdad at 2:40 PM on June 16, 2008

I always expected Winston to go by way of Tom Savini bursting from his chest.
posted by Eideteker at 2:43 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

His work on Aliens will always stand out as some of his finest work, if only for the inspired design work of the alien queen (imagine being bold enough to build on Giger's original design work) - and of course the alien warriors with their stripped down heads (which IIRC was in fact the original concept for Alien).

I always held hopes that James Cameron would return to make another Aliens film - with Stan Winston on board. A sad day.
posted by panboi at 2:47 PM on June 16, 2008

posted by Jade Dragon at 2:56 PM on June 16, 2008

The Special Effects Industry is a small community and this news makes every one of us hurt.

posted by ElmerFishpaw at 2:57 PM on June 16, 2008

posted by jburka at 3:11 PM on June 16, 2008


I have yet to see any monster more chilling or convincing that the alien warrior rising from the water toward the end of Aliens. The raptors in the first Jurassic Park were near as good. We'll miss you Stan.
posted by Mil at 3:21 PM on June 16, 2008

Somewhat like the JFK assassination, the Patterson-Gimlin film of an alleged Bigfoot has received an enormous amount of analysis, in print, on TV, and on the Internet. As an amateur, I've spent time myself analysing various elements of the controversy.

In my opinion, one of the most compelling analysis was given by Stan Winston who said simply; "It's a guy in a bad hair suit". A unique video montage that features this segment is seen here.
posted by Tube at 3:50 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


posted by pyrex at 4:39 PM on June 16, 2008

Thanks Stan.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:10 PM on June 16, 2008


I saw an Alien queen life sized prop at the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle. Even behind shiny glass it was hugely disturbing. Lots of little props (like phasers) look kinda crappy in real life, but that queen was still disturbing even when still as a rock and not covered with Alien goo.
posted by valis at 5:33 PM on June 16, 2008

Here's a nice letter from James Cameron as part of the Ain't It Cool News tribute.
posted by Nathaniel W at 5:37 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

The FX king.
posted by Liquidwolf at 6:22 PM on June 16, 2008

Man, what a legend.

posted by cavalier at 7:40 PM on June 16, 2008

posted by MythMaker at 7:53 PM on June 16, 2008

Game over, dude.

posted by tzikeh at 8:10 PM on June 16, 2008

It's been fifteen years since that film was released and I am now an adult, but when I have a nightmare? Nine times out of ten it features one of those goddamn raptors. The man was an amazing talent.

And I'll have to second Artw's "fuck cgi monsters" sentiment. You watch a film like Aliens or Jurassic Park, one featuring Winston's animatronics, and it still holds up just fine.
posted by kosher_jenny at 8:52 PM on June 16, 2008

. (period in a dot costume)
posted by Samizdata at 9:42 PM on June 16, 2008

My being in the FX industry is Stan's fault-- Terminator 2 was my first experience with sneaking into an R-rated movie, age 15. Cameron and Winston, as artists, were utterly formative and transformative to me, and remain so to this day.

Mr. Fairytale is also in the industry and had the opportunity to work on Titanic back in the day, when Stan was still deeply involved in working with Jim Cameron on their mutual projects. He has always described Stan as his favorite person to work for, the one who remembered every artist and every technician by name and treated them all with great respect and sincere warmth.

I regret that I never had the chance to meet him.

posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:56 PM on June 16, 2008

posted by Tacodog at 12:43 AM on June 17, 2008

Absolutely tragic. This has put a bummer on my day. Winston is a hero of mine.
posted by slimepuppy at 1:23 AM on June 17, 2008

posted by Smart Dalek at 3:56 AM on June 17, 2008

Looks like he'll be best remembered by many for Aliens. Godspeed sir.
posted by autodidact at 6:13 AM on June 17, 2008

For all the pirates and pirettes, you can relive some of Stan's Aliens work in pixelated form here.
posted by anthill at 9:08 AM on June 17, 2008

posted by fletchmuy at 6:32 AM on June 19, 2008

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