Stuart Freeborn reported dead
When we had to re-do a bathroom due to damage years ago, we went into a store with many possible tiles for the floor. We ended up with a coloring and patterning (which we still very much like) that we both agreed “looked like Yoda”.
That shows you (even if we aren’t typical) how much the look of something can have an impact.
In the case of Yoda, the designer of the appearance was Stuart Freeborn.
When I hear that name, my first thought is of the “apemen” in the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey. There was an amazing naturalness to the special effects in that movie (still missing in many of today’s extravaganzas), and this key scene was no exception. If we’d spent the scene thinking how fake it looked, it would have compromised the rest of the movie…Freeborn made sure that didn’t happen.
No question, though, most people will associate Stuart Freeborn with the Star Wars series. While Rick Baker rightfully gets a lot of credit for the mix of aliens in the Cantina, Freeborn designed Yoda and Chewbacca (the latter of whom, it is worth noting, looks different from the Space Odyssey designs).
Freeborn also had a long association with Peter Sellers. Sellers often appeared in multiple roles, which of course, required different looks…which is where Freeborn would come into it.
Never nominated for an Oscar, Freeborn shared two Saturn Awards (one with Phil Tippett and one with Rick Baker), and was nominated for a BAFTA.
Geek friendly credits include:
- The 1940 version of The Thief of Bagdad with Sabu
- The Mouse that Roared (working with Peter Sellers)
- The Christopher Lee version of The Hands of Orlac
- Tarzan Goes to India (with Jock Mahoney)
- Dr. Strangelove (Sellers again)
- Seance on a Quiet Afternoon (which got star Kim Stanley an Oscar nom)
- After the Fox (which I consider an under appreciated Peter Sellers movie)
- Toomorrow (Val Guest (!) directs Olivia Newton-John in a rock movie…with aliens)
- See No Evil (Mia Farrow)
- Beware My Brethren
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1972) with Fiona Fullerton and Michael Crawford (the eventual Phantom of the Opera) as the White Rabbit
- Murder on the Orient Express (with Albert Finney)
- The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (with Gene Wilder)
- The Omen
- Spectre (Gene Roddenberry writes for Robert Culp)
- The first three Star Wars movies
- The Christopher Reeve Superman movies
- The Great Muppet Caper (working with Frank Oz again)
- Top Secret! (Val Kilmer)
- Santa Claus (Dudley Moore)
- Haunted Honeymoon (Gene Wilder again)
Good-bye, Stuart Freeborn…our reality has fewer alternatives without you in it.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.