Stan Winston: Oscar-winning special-effects artist on 'Jurassic Park' and 'Aliens'

Stan Winston was a master make-up and special-effects artist, responsible for some of the most memorable characters in fantasy cinema, notably the liquid metal cyborg assassin of Terminator 2, the enormous dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and the 14-foot alien queen of Aliens. He also created the high-tech armoured suits worn by Robert Downey Jnr in the recent hit Iron Man.

Other inventions included the bizarre hands of Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands and the vampires of Interview with a Vampire (1994), and for Jurassic Park 3 (2001) he introduced a pair of imposing new characters, the Pteranodon and the Spinosaurus, which were among the largest animatronic creatures ever built for a motion picture. The New Yorker magazine described Winston as "almost single-handedly elevating the craft of creature-making from the somewhat comic man-in-a-rubber-suit monsters of the 1950s and the 1960s, to animatronics – electronically animated, part robot, part puppet creatures that have terrified millions of movie-goers".

One of Winston's most remarkable skills was his ability to blend animatronics and physically created effects seamlessly with the latest computer-graphics imagery. The first special-effects artist to receive a star on Hollywood Boulevard, he won four Oscars – two of which came for Terminator 2 – and was nominated for six more. In 1972, he established his own studio and once compared the talent therein to "the finest painters, sculptors and artists of the Renaissance".

Born in Arlington, Virginia, in 1946, Winston developed a love of drawing and puppetry, and studied painting and sculpture at the University of Virginia, graduating in 1968. With the ambition of becoming an actor, he worked as a stand-up comedian, although in 1969 he began a three-year make-up apprenticeship at the Walt Disney Studio, regarding it initially as "a day job". (His son, Matt, was to have more success as an actor, playing Temporal Agent Daniels in the TV series Star Trek: Enterprise.)

Winston's talent for creating characters through make-up quickly became apparent, and in 1972 he won an Emmy for his work on the television horror movie Gargoyles. He won five more Emmy nominations over the next six years, sharing an award with Rick Baker for ageing Cicely Tyson from 19 years old to 110 in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974).

For the movie WC Fields and Me (1976), Winston won praise for his remarkable transformation of Rod Steiger into the famed comedian Fields, whose bulbous nose was his trademark. His vivid imagination while working as make-up designer on The Wiz (1978), which included Michael Jackson as a colourful scarecrow, was considered one of the redeeming features in an otherwise overblown musical.

Winston's creation of two robots who fall in love in Heartbeeps (1981) won him his first Oscar nomination, and he created some frightening effects for John Carpenter's The Thing in 1982. But the film that truly established him (and its director James Cameron) was The Terminator (1984) – starring Arnold Schwarzenegger – a production that was immediately recognised as a classic futuristic adventure. It fulfilled Winston's own criteria that a strong storyline was the most important element of screen fantasy. "It's not about technology," he said. "It's about writers writing wonderful stories with fantastic characters and me being able to create a visual image that's beyond what you would expect."

Cameron described Winston as "a kid that never grew up, whose dreams were writ large on the screens of the world." Winston worked with Cameron again on Aliens in 1986, with his versatile extraterrestrials winning him his first Oscar for Best Visual Effects. He teamed up with Schwarzenegger again for Predator (1987) in which he created an extraterrestrial assassin who stalks the brawny star. "The entertainment industry has lost a genius," said Schwarzenegger this week, "and I have lost one of my best friends."

In 1988, Winston directed a movie himself. Pumpkinhead, in which a farmer unleashes a demon on the "city folks" who invade his backwoods domain, won Winston the "Best First Time Director" award at the Paris Film Festival, but he directed only one more movie, 1990's genial A Gnome Named Gnorm. The same year, he devised the unique shear-like hands of the title character in Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), included an original and hauntingly sinister liquid-metal killer with whom Schwarzenegger battled, winning Winston Oscars for both visual effects and make-up.

For Burton's Batman Returns (1992), he created Danny DeVito's truly nasty Penguin and an increasingly gothic Gotham City, after which he won his fourth Oscar for his impressive dinosaurs, including a two-storey tall Tyrannosaurus Rex, in Stephen Spielberg's Jurassic Park (1993). Spielberg's AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001) brought Winston his final Oscar nomination for special-effects that included an eerily stuffed walking and talking teddy bear.

Other films which benefited from Winston's talent included Mousehunt (1997), Galaxy Quest (1999), Pearl Harbour (2001) and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) as well as the current hit Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In 2001, he produced five films for the HBO television series Creature Features, a tribute to the low-budget horror films of the 1950s, using the titles of such American releases as Earth vs. the Spider, How to Make a Monster and Teenage Caveman, but with entirely different plots to the originals.

Winston's schedule for the future included further instalments of both Terminator and Jurassic Park, and he had done preparatory work on two of next year's most anticipated cinematic releases: James Cameron's Avatar and Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island. Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man, acknowledged the help he received from Winston, stating: "He was the king of integrating practical effects with CGI, never losing his relevance in an ever changing industry."

Tom Vallance

Stanley Winston, make-up and special-effects artist: born Arlington, Virginia 7 April 1946; married (one son, one daughter); died Malibu, California 15 June 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
News
David Ryall in Harry Potter
people
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Wayne Rooney warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane
football
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015