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Stan Winston: Smoke and Monsters

Wizard of Weird Stan Winston has created some of Hollywood's most dazzling special effects and terrifying screen monsters
Elizabeth Snead
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Spacey, Jan/Feb 02

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"Stan is an amazing artist, extremely smart and he has never lost his boyish enthusiasm," Schwarzenegger says. "He's still a big kid. He loves making his monsters and, like me, he loves all the toys. We go motorcycle riding together, play chess, and smoke cigars together. He's great to travel with because he is so interested in everything and so inquisitive."

Winston is also open to new trends in wine, several of which he's been introduced to at his monthly wine-tasting group. "It's a group of Hollywood studio execs, directors, writers and one monster maker," Winston says. "It's really hard for me to think of myself as a wine collector. I'm really a hick when it comes to wine. I'm just a guy who likes to drink good red wines."

Yeah, just a guy who keeps, oh, around 4,000 bottles of fine red wines -- "50 percent French, 30 percent California and 20 percent Italian and Australian" -- in the wine cellar of his cliff-top Malibu, California, home.

"I favor first-growth Bordeaux, but one of my favorite wines is the Syrah-based French Rhônes," Winston says. "But there are some great California reds, too many to name, and a whole new group of wonderful Australian reds, the most well-known of which is probably the Penfolds Grange, which is a huge fruit bomb. But it's like a very rich piece of fudge and can get overwhelming. I'm also a lover of Burgundies because they have a finesse and balance that you never get tired of."

Winston never tires of topping himself. While others in the business rest on their laurels, Winston is still going full throttle. Last year the more than 150 artists and technicians in Stan Winston Studio worked the Winston magic on Spielberg's eagerly awaited A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Joe Johnston's Jurassic Park III, Bay's Pearl Harbor, and the latest rendering of H. G. Wells's classic The Time Machine, due out this spring. They are currently working on Terminator 3, the highly anticipated third installment of the franchise now in design. Winston's new Cinemax TV series, "Creature Features," has a toy tie-in with a line of "Stan Winston Creatures," the first fantasy figurines with CD-ROMs that profile the artists behind the beasts.

"In the days of Michelangelo, all the great Renaissance artists worked for the churches," Winston says. "In our time, the artists work for Hollywood studios. My guys are the finest drawers, sculptors and painters in the world. Now they're doing this toy line and it's important for kids to see the artist behind the character."

He should know. When Winston first came to Hollywood in 1969, he wanted to be an actor and apprenticed at Disney to learn the art of character makeup. When his first makeup job on the TV movie Gargoyles won an Emmy in 1972, the struggling young actor's sideline became a lucrative career. But it was a sci-fi film about a robot from the post-apocalyptic future, starring a muscle-bound actor with an unpronounceable last name, directed by a neophyte filmmaker named James Cameron, that would dramatically alter Winston's life.

"Terminator was a huge turning point in my career," Winston recalls. "It really was a movie that set my work aside from every other makeup effects person out there. No one had ever seen anything like it and it was, from an artistic and technical standpoint, a watershed of what we were capable of doing that people hadn't seen before."

The film showcased Winston's masterful mix of live action, animatronics, makeup design, digital imagery and creature effects, and the result was nothing short of terrifying. But for Winston, it was even more important on a personal level.

"On Terminator I met and became very close with two people who have been pivotal in my career and my social life, James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Combining professional success with tight relationships and friendships is everything that I'm about."


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