|Irvin Kershner applies make-up to Yoda. Or is that Stuart Freeborn? A classic behind the scenes image from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.|
STAR WARS AFICIONADO was very sad yesterday to hear of the passing of legendary make-up genius Stuart Freeborn. He was 98. One of the British film industry's most talented, and greatest, experts in his field, Freeborn, who lived a life of advancing and experimenting his techniques, was the definitive go-to guy in handling tricky to realise concepts for film, TV and commercials, be they dawn of civilisation apes in Stanley Kubrick's classic 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, turning the extravagant comedian Peter Sellers into numerous different characters in the classic apocalyptic black comedy DR STRANGELOVE, or transforming a young Alec Guinness into the crafty elderly king of street crime, Fagin, in Charles Dicken's OLIVER TWIST. But it would be the original STAR WARS saga for which his work would become the most well known and beloved by audiences. Approached in 1975 by George Lucas to handle the first films numerous alien creatures, at first the alien bounty hunter later to become known as Greedo, followed by the mighty furry wookiee Chewbacca, Freeborn, despite advancing time pressures and later ill health, created a vast menagerie of shapes and sizes extra terrestrials for the UK filming of the Mos Eisley Cantina sequences. After the success of STAR WARS, Freeborn's talents were then sought in making Christopher Reeve's Man of Steel become reality on Richard Donner's first SUPERMAN extravaganza, and it's back to back shot film sequel.
|Peter Mayhew poses for a promotional image for STAR WARS.|
|Behind the scenes, Stuart and Kay Freeborn work with Peter Mayhew on the all-important Chewbacca mask.|
|Working out the wookiee's jaw capabilities.|
|On set for STAR WARS, applying the mask to Peter Mayhew.|
|At work on the Yoda sculpt in 1979.|
|A side angle of Freeborn at work.|
|Yoda gives his wisdom to an amazed Luke Skywalker in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.|
|Freeborn with his original version of the Wampa face, prior to 1979 location filming in Norway.|
|Freeborn oversees the 1981 construction of Jabba the Hutt at his London workshop.|
|As Jabba finally looks onscreen, tongue terrorising Princess Leia.|
|Stuart makes some last-minute modifications to an Ewok, for a 1981 screen test in London for REVENGE OF THE JEDI.|
|Graham and Kay Freeborn at work on the screen test Ewoks.|
Meeting him in 2008, in a special interview arranged via Ian Trussler, Stuart and his wife Kay (who passed away in 2012) were a lovely and very friendly couple. Despite his frailty, he was full of enthusiastic stories and eager to talk about his/their career and his unique creations on the STAR WARS saga-his Yoda bust, given to him by his protege turned successor, Nick Dudman, during the filming of EPISODE I, proudly displayed in their front room. Their talents and personalities will be much missed but fondly remembered and celebrated for years to come by cinema and STAR WARS fans worldwide. Their hard work and dedication must surely be recognised with some sort of visual tribute at both the upcoming BAFTA's and ACADEMY AWARDS ceremonies in creating such legendary and iconic work.
With thanks to Ian Trussler and Chris Baker for selected images.
Check out our STAR WARS AFICIONADO FACEBOOK PAGE picture gallery of the many wonderful STAR WARS aliens crafted by Stuart and Kay Freeborn: (4) THE MAGIC AND GENIUS OF STUART FREEBORN
Tributes: Make Up Artist Stuart Freeborn Interview - YouTube
Stuart Freeborn Documentary Part II - YouTube
Star Wars Archives
BBC News - Star Wars make-up artist Stuart Freeborn dies aged 98
From Star Wars to Jedi: The Making of a Saga - Part 2 of 7 - YouTube
A tribute to Stuart Freeborn from former assistant Nick Maley.
Star Wars Episode I: This Is A Creature Film Webisode - YouTube
Stuart Freeborn - IMDb
Don't forget, the special AFICIONADO 2008 edition devoted to the making of RETURN OF THE JEDI, with our exclusive interview with Stuart Freeborn, is also available here: STAR WARS AFICIONADO ISSUE 14 - THE MAKING OF "RETURN OF THE JEDI"