In Memoriam: Stan Winston

Stanwinstonobit_lI remember very clearly the first time a movie scared the pants off of me. It was 1986’s Aliens; I was a freshman in high school, and by my own estimation way too old to be scare-the-pants-off-able. But something about the sheer creepiness of the effects, the horrible magnificence of the alien "queen," made me want to scurry under my seat.

Aliens earned Stan Winston his first Oscar. But the visual effects genius, who succumbed to multiple myeloma yesterday at the age of 62, hardly stopped at outer-space shenanigans. Though Winston majored in painting and sculpture in college, and went to Hollywood with dreams of making it as a actor, he found more work on the other side of the lens. In the early ’80s, he set up his own studio and worked with James Cameron on the surprise box-office hit The Terminator (1984). The success of that film lead to a fruitful partnership between the two men — notably, Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) — and he and Cameron went on to found the renowned F/X shop Digital Domain.

Over the course of his career, Winston earned four Oscars (including two for the makeup and visual effects in T2 and another for the groundbreaking dinosaurs of 1993’s Jurassic Park) and multiple nominations — impressive in any category. His other work includes (but is hardly limited to) Predator (1987), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), Interview with the Vampire (1994), Pearl Harbor (2001), Iron Man (2008), and several other films currently in production. (A project-by-project gallery of his fantastic creations is here.)

Most of us wouldn’t have recognized Stan Winston on the street, and that reinforces the notion that sometimes the truly vital players are not the ones whose faces you see stretched 30 feet tall on the silver screen, or their names lit up in lights. But for those who care about the art of special effects — and Winston most definitely considered himself an artist — a vital part of the picture is gone missing.

addCredit(“Stan Winston: L. Cohen/WireImage”)


Comments (19 total) Add your comment
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  • thad

    Loved him dearly. Special effects will never be the same again. Big Loss

  • x302

    Oh my gosh! this sucks! he was sooooo good, can we nominate him for a star???

  • ben

    awww this is so sad. i’ve been a big fan of his work for a long time, his talents will truly be missed

  • John Burrill

    Good tribute. For those of us who put in Saturday Nights at the cineplex, Stan Winston had a big part in delivering on the contract that drew us there. He’s an essential personality in my favorite films and a true source of inspiration.

  • Anonymous

    When I think special effects and movie magic, I, and I’m sure countless others, think of Stan Winston. Rest in Peace Stan.

  • GuybrushThreepy

    He was an amazing talent and never ceased to amaze me. I for one am grateful for his work and will never forget him or the masterful movies he helped create. RIP Stan.

  • Mr. Wu

    x302: Are you talking about a star on the walk of fame? If so, he already has one.

  • Larry

    He was an inspiration. Such talent and genuis! His vision will be truly missed.

  • Brendan

    Working in the VFX field myself I never truly realized how much of an effect this man had on me until now, I poured over books, films and have shared moments with my own peers based on these film when growing up that they are part of some of my great childhood moments.
    I feel like I’ve somehow lost a mentor without being over the top, me being born in 1980 pretty much everything I focused on as a benchmark in VFX can be attributed to this guy alone…
    He will be missed by me my peers and no doubt all who dream of making great films….

  • RP

    My condolences to his family and friends. I can’t even imagine how difficult it is when losing a loved one to a disease they’ve fought with for years. (I looked up multiple myeloma and it sounds AWFUL. How did he keep working?)
    We’ll all miss the magic Stan Winston brought to the movies.

  • Eric Friedmann

    R.I.P., Stan. You were the best in your field. Spielberg’s films won’t be the same without you. Too bad Marc Bernardin considers JURASSIC PARK a “misfire”.

  • Eric Friedmann

    Keep in mind, people, that without Willis O’Brien, there never would have been a Stan Winston. Those of you who don’t know who Willis O’Brien was…LOOK IT UP!

  • t3hdow

    To Eric Friedmann:
    Good job for taking Marc B.’s opinion completely out of context and use Stan Winston’s death as another outlet for your animosity towards the EW staff. For someone who takes hostility to many sensitive subjects (namely 9/11), it’s ironic you don’t hesitate to use someone’s passing to reaffirm your hatred towards another man’s opinion on a movie. Really, for someone who spites anything associated with this mag, why are you still here, flapping your gums? You’re such a hypocritical scumbag, it’s unbelievable.
    Stan Winston having to suffer over the past several years from a dreaded disease but still passionately working in his dream job is worth commending for endurance alone, and I don’t think Marc B. or anyone else will deny that, despite how they feel about the movies he worked on. Or, maybe you feel anger for Stan W. being involved in Iron Man, a movie you hate with a passion, you idiot.
    Stan Winston will be missed. I can’t say the same for you, Friedmann.

  • Eric Friedmann

    t3hdow, my 2 1/2 year-old son throws fewer childish tantrums than you do. Your pathetic defensiveness and infantile name-calling over one man’s negative attacks continues to add to the sheer fun in all of this and leads me to two (2) conclusions:
    1) You sound like you’re an EW writer yourself and feel the need to defend your colleague. How admirable. I’m getting misty already.
    2) You cannot, cannot take the heat. I pity you.
    Well, what can I say? You don’t like what I’m saying? My response is, tough sh*t! Ignore me, then. Try it. It’s easy. Meanwhile, I’ll be right here “flapping my gums” about everything I despise about today’s modern American pop-culture and those who choose to glorify it with their silly articles. Last time I checked, the rules said nothing about “positive comments only”.
    Thank you very much! Have a nice day! Keep smiling!

  • t3hdow

    To Eric Friedmann:
    Pffh. The EW staff can defend its own when need be. They don’t need a disgruntled popwatcher to do that job. I’m just tired of hearing your BS topic after topic and I’m pretty sure everyone else is too. You’re just a troll with nothing to add besides obnoxious insults and risible assumptions toward everyone’s character with an inflated ego that even makes Kanye West seem sane. The fact that you dragged your own child into this debate further proves how immature and tactless you really are. I ask you this: if EW and its subscribers upset you this much, why waste your time? Practice what you preach for once. Do something besides harassing people over the internet. If you have nothing constructive to bring into a debate – which hardly seems to be the case with your posts – don’t say anything at all. In this case, that would’ve been a better, far less offensive option than using Stan Winston’s death to forward your anti-EW angle.

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