The man responsible for the F/X on Jurassic Park, Iron Man and 100’s more passed away this week. We’ve uncovered the last interview we did with him when he was working on Terminator 3.
The following interview orignally ran in Movies Plus magazine around the release of ‘Wrong Turn’ and ‘Terminator 3’. Stan Winston died June 15th 2008, he was working on James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ and ‘Terminator Salvation : The Future Begins’ at the time of his death.
Stan Winston described himself as a character designer rather than a makeup effects technician.He crafted some of Hollywood’s most fantastic figures, collaborating on the fearsome monster effects of “Aliens”, “Jurassic Park”, “The Terminator” trilogy and horror flick “Wrong Turn”. Other credits to his name include designing “Edward Scissorhands”, “The Predator”, The Penguin in “Batman Returns” and the vampires in “Interview with a vampire.”
Q: How did you get involved in the world of SFX? I started out as an actor, I was a fan of science fiction, fantasy and horror and wanted to play the parts of these characters. I was inspired by Charles Laughton playing the “Hunchback of Notre Dame” and Spencer Tracy playing “Jekyll and Hyde”. I was a keen sculpture and painter, graduating from college with an art major. When I was trying to become an actor I applied for an apprenticeship program as a makeup artist so that I could work with actors and apply my artistic skills. Eventually my side-line snowballed and I continued to create characters from behind the scenes rather than in front of the scenes.
Q: What attracted you to the horror movie ‘Wrong Turn’? It was the scariest script I had read in the past 15 or 20 years. It was a very hardcore, horror movie, I am a huge horror fan and I couldn’t remember seeing a movie that was as scary as what was on the page of this script. It’s not trying to be a comedy, it’s not tongue in cheek, it’s not poetry it just tries to scare the s*it out of you.
Q: How did you go about creating a look for the three “mountain men” in Wrong Turn? Anything I do in my career I like to think that I’m doing something that people haven’t seen before. I wanted to create some wonderful new characters for this film and they had to be very real. I’m well known for creating fantastic memorable characters but they’re always grounded in reality and these mountain men are very real. We did a lot of research on inbreeding and on physical deformities that could happen due to inbreeding and used all this to create these characters. It’s about making a look that is totally real and therefore it scares the audience. It’s the same when creating dinosaurs for Jurassic Park, you don’t make a dinosaur scary, you make it look like a real dinosaur. You let it’s performance terrify the audience.
Q: What is the difference between working on something huge like “Terminator 3” and a smaller horror movie like “Wrong Turn”? There is no real difference. The body of work is sometimes different but for me, my job is creating characters for film. Whatever that film is, it’s not about special effects and it’s not about the techniques. We use whatever techniques necessary to help create the characters that are required in the screenplay to come to life. It’s the job that’s important, the story is important. In the case of Terminator 3, I had a very important job. It was to do something with Arnold beyond what we have seen before. It was to create and design a new Terminator, the TX, which was going to be female; had to be more powerful than Arnold, had to be more advanced than Arnold, had to be able to kickhis butt, yet still fit inside the body of Kristana Loken.
Q: How has technology changed between working on Terminator 3 and it’s two predecessors? The first Terminator movie was far advanced from anything seen in movies before. We took existing performance technologies created by Jim Henson and the Muppets and created the Terminator as a full-sized organic puppet. It was the first time that anyone had seen something that life size, using animatronics. Then in Terminator 2, we broke more ground. It was the first time in motion picture history that a character was created by seamlessly blending CGI technology, robots, and animatronics. We didn’t have the robotic technology that we have today because of the Jurassic Park series when we were doing T2. Now we have advanced our robotic technology, our computer technology, everything. The reason we were able to design the TX in Terminator 3 as a more advanced robot is because we used more advanced tools to design her. When the first Terminator was built, you’re talking about pencil and paper, you’re talking about clay sculpture, you’re talking about carving and making moulds. TX was developed and designed on a computer. We were able to use the same artists. Same drawing skills, painting skills and sculpting skills but the tool is a more advanced tool, so she can be designed to be a more perfect character.
Q: Do you ever get Squeamish creating extremely violent scenes, like the ones seen in ‘Wrong Turn’? Real gore and real blood is very unsettling to me, my parents wanted me to be a doctor but I couldn’t because I honestly cant stand the sight of blood. Movie blood though gives me a kick – I love for movies to make people as uncomfortable as possible. Give me something on film that’s totally over the top, rip somebody’s head off etc… it is fun because it’s very obviously fake, it’s make believe. It’s like getting your fear-fix, everyone has fear in them and its good to get that fear out. And where better to get it out of your system than going to a movie, enjoy it, be scared, be repulsed, be terrified and you don’t have to have nightmares because you’ve already had your fear fix for the day.