Last August, Screen Geek Josh and I were wandering the endless corridors of Comic Con and we ran into Stan Winston. This was my first time at Comic Con and, in fact, it was during my first couple of hours there that, after growing glassy-eyed with geeky overkill, endless booths, movie promos and fanboy paraphernalia galore, Josh and I happened to spot the Skinwalkers promotion. In front of a tall booth (hidden by a black curtain and containing a mock-up of the film’s monster, for the brave who peeked inside) sat a friendly, older man with a lean, white beard and unassuming glasses. I said to Josh, “That’s Stan Winston!” I immediately began to bore Josh with everything I knew about Winston and Josh, keeping his cool, matter of factly asked me, “are you going to talk to him?” I said, “I can’t!” I was so taken aback by seeing him, I told Josh I needed a minute to come up with something to say, perhaps buy something for him to sign, and maybe ask him what the status of Jurassic Park IV was. We walked around the convention, came back a few minutes later and found Mr. Winston swamped with fans. I thought, oh well, I’ll get a chance to talk to him later. I never did.
Four years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Lance Henriksen. I told him that I loved his performance in Pumpkinhead; his eyes lit up and he said, “Thanks! You know, that was Stan Winston’s first film as a director!” It’s very telling that, of all the things he could have said about that film, the first thing that came to mind was Stan Winston.
Winston had that effect on actors, filmmakers and his countless fans. They LOVED him. He had a reputation as an approachable, kind and effortlessly inventive genius who loved movies as much as the work he put into them.
This was a man who made movie magic, time and time again. His work as a visual effects creator, designer and make-up artist are among the most iconic and convincing in film history. His contributions to The Terminator, Jurassic Park, Aliens, Batman Returns, A.I., Terminator 2 and Interview With the Vampire are classic and astonishing. Even the work he did on bad films, like The Island of Dr. Moreau, Heartbeeps, The Wiz, Invaders From Mars and Pearl Harbor, is so incredible, it makes the films worth seeing, if only to view his work (particularly Dr. Moreau, which has some of the best make-up I’ve ever seen).
Winston’s extensive filmography has titles that make you feel like you’re a kid and cause one to smile sheepishly: Galaxy Quest, Edward Scissorhands, Congo, Starman, Mousehunt, and The Monster Squad- all have Stan Winston’s fingerprints on them.
I now know exactly what I should have said to Mr. Winston; I simply should have walked up to him, shook his hand and said, “Thank You”.