Spielberg remembers Stan Winston
Hey folks, Harry here... Us guys at AICN have worked our hardest to give the sort of tribute to Stan Winston that we felt strongly - that he deserved. The initial AICN Tribute page has been pushed down - it's now a week and a half since his passing - but when I received this correspondence from Steven Spielberg - well - How can I not share the fond rememberance of the great beard himself. Here's Spielberg...
Stan Winston never failed to make me laugh and his timing was impeccable. He’d wait like a big game hunter for all the signs to point toward a guaranteed kill. From a great distance, he’d follow my tracks onto the set. He’d check the prevailing winds for stress and chaos, a common combo on all special effects movies. He’d make sure he was out of sight of his quarry while he prepared. Then, just as he’d observe me about to lose my mind, he’d call out my name and when I turned, there he’d be, sitting in my director’s chair, having his haircut, his nails manicured, and smoking a cigar while reading Variety. And that killed! We’d both start howling, laughing like brothers all the way to the bank and back for more. I adored that man. We made each other feel like Willis O’Brien. The dinosaurs he and his shop designed, built, and made real, were natural wonders that seem to be in short supply these days. Like the dinosaurs of the Jurassic period succumbing to extinction, they have been replaced by digital wonders that are actualized months after cast and crew have gone home or onto other pictures.
It’s so much harder getting performances from actors when the principal nemeses are two grips holding 15-foot poles with Day Glo tape at different intervals. Joey Mazzello and Ariana Richards were crazy scared on JURASSIC PARK when Stan’s T-Rex lowered his softball-sized eye right into the window of their Ford Explorer to scope them out. These moments were multiplied and divided amongst the cast, who had to act with a life-sized Triceratops, Brachiosaurus, Dilophosaurus, and two Velociraptors, that could even fog up a window with one powerful snort.
This was Stan’s reality. This was Stan’s art. The next time an actor has to act scared when he or she only has a wooden T-Bar to track, they will ask, along with the rest of us, “Hey, where’s Stan Winston?”
For all the years I knew Stan and worked with him, he was out in front of all the competition, creating things no one had ever seen before. And I rode his cutting edge, but it was not the kind of ride that you pay for. It was the kind of ride a friend gives you when he opens the passenger door and says, “Where do you want to go?”