Stuart Freeborn, the man behind Yoda's makeup, was a pioneer in Hollywood
Stuart Freeborn was 'a makeup legend,' said 'Star Wars' creator George Lucas. Stuart Freeborn worked on films such as 'Dr. Strangelove' and 'Planet of the Apes' as well as the 'Star Wars' films.
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After air force service during World War II, he worked on British cinema classics including "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" and David Lean's 1948 version of "Oliver Twist." His transformation of Alec Guinness into Fagin —complete with a large hooked nose — was criticized by some as anti-Semitic, a matter of regret for Freeborn, who said he was partly Jewish.Skip to next paragraph
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Freeborn later worked with Kubrick, transforming Peter Sellers into multiple characters for "Doctor Strangelove" before designing the apes for "2001'''s "Dawn of Man" sequence, in which primates react to a mysterious monolith.
But he will likely be best remembered for his work on "Star Wars" — creating characters such as the 7-foot-tall wookie Chewbacca and the 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, a makeup artist who worked with Freeborn in the 1970s, called him a mentor who "ran his department like a headmaster."
"It was my years working with him that helped me learn how to think, how to solve problems, how to not take the most obvious path," Maley 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."
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