The Oscar-winning FX icon, who died Sunday at 62 of multiple myeloma, was one of my heroes, responsible for creating many of the movie monsters that have scared me deliciously to death — and continue to do so.
Winston is best known for "Aliens," "A.I. Artificial Intelligence," Terminator 2: Judgment Day," "Jurassic Park" and "Edward Scissorhands," and his team had just finished "Iron Man."
I had the opportunity to spend time with Stan in 2001 when I was assigned to write a profile for Cigar Aficionado (he was quite the wine and cigar collector).
I remember his chortling laugh, indefatigable sense of humor and infectious enthusiasm for his work, his family and his monsters. At that time, he was jazzed about his initial involvement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his special-effects studio’s just-started collaboration with the Digital Life consortium of MIT’s Media Lab.
"They’ve realized that artificial intelligence requires human interactivity," Winston told me at the time. "A robot learns by interacting with a human, and there’s a better chance for that with an appealing organic character rather than something that looks like a machine. So we’re sharing our technology of building robots with organic character and movement."
"There’s a lot of enthusiasm here about what Stan Winston can do to advance what we do," Alexandra Kahn, MIT’s press liaison, told me. "The merger entails sharing our artificial-intelligence technology with his studio and benefiting from their ability to create lifelike creatures."
Imagine Teddy, the talking bear-bot in "A.I.," come to life. According to Winston, it was not only possible, it was inevitable.
"Historically, anything that we can imagine, we make. The creative mind imagines it, and it’s the human condition to make it real. That is the essence of humanity. When Jules Verne wrote "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," there were no such things as submarines. When he wrote "From the Earth to the Moon," there were no rocket ships. Steven Spielberg just made ‘A.I.’ about artificial intelligence, and now we’re helping create it."
His good motorcycling pal Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said of his friend: "Stan is an amazing artist, extremely smart, and he has never lost his boyish enthusiasm. He’s still a big kid. He loves making his monsters and, like me, he loves all the toys. We go motorcycle riding together, play chess and smoke cigars together. He’s great to travel with, because he is so interested in everything and so inquisitive."
Farewell, Stan. And thanks for the monsters. You — and they — will never be forgotten.
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Photos: Stan Winston at the "Cruel World" premiere in 2005.