'Star Wars' Makeup Artist Stuart Freeborn Behind Yoda Died at 98
Stuart Freeborn, who created many memorable characters including Yoda in the Star Wars universe for George Lucas, has passed away. His granddaughter, Michelle, said the pioneering movie makeup artist died Tuesday, February 5 in London from a combination of ailments due to his age.
LucasFilm said in a eulogy that Freeborn died "leaving a legacy of unforgettable contributions to film," including classic characters such as Chewbacca and Jabba the Hutt. "Stuart was already a makeup legend when he started on 'Star Wars'," director George Lucas said in a statement.
"He brought with him not only decades of experience, but boundless creative energy. 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."
A London native, Freeborn began his career in movie industry for director Alexander Korda in 1936's biographical film "Rembrandt". He took a break to serve England's air force during World War II before returning to the industry in such movies as David Lean's "Oliver Twist" and "The Bridge on the River Kwai".
Before his involvement in "Star Wars", Freeborn was responsible for the creation of the apelike human ancestors in the "Dawn of Man" sequence of "2001: A Space Odyssey", and memorably transformed Peter Sellers into multiple roles in "Doctor Strangelove".
In creating Yoda, Freeborn said he tried to evoke Albert Einstein in the wizened Jedi master's eyes. Many, however, noted the fictional character's inquisitive and mischievous elfin features had more than a passing resemblance to Freeborn himself.
Throughout his career, Freeborn also helped create the makeup for the first four "Superman" movies, and put Dom DeLuise in drag for the Gene Wilder-Gilda Radner comedy film "Haunted Honeymoon". 1990's TV movie "Max and Helen" became his final film credit.
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