Know Yoda, everybody does, but the wizened Star Wars mystic had a makeup master whose impact was felt on a number of classic films.
The groundbreaking British makeup artist, Stuart Freeborn, passed away on February 6, at the age of 98, leaving behind a legacy of memorable movie characters, both puppet and otherwise. His career in films began in the 1930s, from which point he continued working for six decades. In that time, not only did Freeborn have the opportunity to work on classic films like Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Superman, he pioneered a kind of technology that served a purpose CGI would later fill.
Kicking off a relationship with the auteur Stanley Kubrick, Freeborn worked on his beloved satire Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Although Strangelove was filmed in the early 1960s, the makeup artist had a task straight out of latter day Eddie Murphy fat-suit comedies: he had to transform Peter Sellers into several distinctive characters appearing in the same movie. Freeborn would later go on to design the lithe, expressive apes in Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: Space Odyssey.
The artist took the creative work of making apes seem realistic as possible to new heights nine years later, when he joined on with the Star Wars movies. Indeed, there’s more than a little bit of ape-DNA in the newer films’ Chewbacca, and in fact, you can even see a bit of Freeman himself in the puppet he is perhaps best known for, Yoda.—who was not that much smaller than the relatively diminutive makeup master.
Have a look through some of the other popular characters he helped bring to life in the slide show above.