Makeup artist created Yoda, transformed Sellers in 'Strangelove'
LONDON — Stuart Freeborn, a pioneering movie makeup artist behind creatures such as Yoda and Chewbacca in the “Star Wars” films, has died at 98.
LucasFilm confirmed Wednesday that Freeborn passed away, “leaving a legacy of unforgettable contributions.”
“Star Wars” director George Lucas said in a statement that Freeborn was “already a makeup legend” when he started working on “Star Wars.”
“He brought with him not only decades of experience, but boundless creative energy,” he said. “His artistry and craftsmanship will live on forever in the characters he created. His “Star Wars” creatures may be reinterpreted in new forms by new generations, but at their heart, they continue to be what Stuart created for the original films.”
Freeborn's granddaughter, Michelle Freeborn, said he died Tuesday in London from a combination of ailments due to his age. Michelle Freeborn, who lives in Wellington, New Zealand, said her grandfather was “like a hero” to her and inspired her and her late father to get into the movie business, too.
“He gave you the feeling that if you wanted to achieve something, you should just get on and do it, and don't ever use excuses,” she said.
In his six-decade career, he worked on many classics, including Stanley Kubrick's “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
He worked with Kubrick in transforming Peter Sellers into multiple characters for “Doctor Strangelove” and designing the apes for the “Dawn of Man” sequence in “Space Odyssey.”
But he will likely be best remembered for “Star Wars” — creating characters such as 7-foot-tall wookie Chewbacca and slug-like Jabba the Hutt.
LucasFilm said that Irvin Kershner, who directed “The Empire Strikes Back,” would “note that Freeborn quite literally put himself into Yoda, as the Jedi master's inquisitive and mischievous elfin features had more than a passing resemblance to Freeborn himself.” (Yoda's looks were also said to be partly inspired by Albert Einstein.)
Freeborn recalled being approached by “this young fellow” named George Lucas, who told him, “I've written a script for a film called ‘Star Wars.' ”
“He was so genuine about it, I thought, well, young as he is, I believe in him. He's got something. I'll do what I can for him,” Freeborn told the BBC.
Nick Maley, who worked with Freeborn in the 1970s, said, “Everybody will remember him for ‘Star Wars,' but he did so much more than that. No one should overlook the groundbreaking work he did on ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.' That was really the forerunner of ‘Star Wars' and used a lot of the same technology.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers not limiting themselves in free agency
- Big names become available this week via free agency; will Steelers be tempted?
- Under Rutherford, it’s been a sizeable shakeup for Penguins
- Burnett’s farewell tour wishlist has just 1 item: Pirates World Series
- Winnik impresses Penguins in first workout
- Blaze rips through Salem house
- Penguins’ Kunitz makes a dream come true
- ‘Shark Tank’ companies have change of heart
- Pirates notebook: Infield prospect Hanson used to playing elders
- Faithful stand together in Wilkinsburg
- Norwin girls capture 1st WPIAL title