Available this week is the latest issue of Star Wars Insider. Here’s a preview of the feature article with Stuart Freeborn, sculptor of such legendary faces as Chewbacca and Yoda. Of course, Freeborn’s career in the movie business began long before he arrived in that galaxy far, far away…
Make-up man Stuart Freeborn’s impressive body of work stretches all the way back to the films of Charlie Chaplin, but it’s his design of the distinctive Star Wars characters like Yoda and Chewbacca that interests Insider!
A make-up man of considerable experience as well as a well-respected innovator, Stuart Freeborn’s impressive resume includes work with Alexander Korda, Charlie Chaplin, Peter Sellers, and even the Muppets, as well as creating the stunningly realistic apes for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey before he accepted the challenge to work on the original Star Wars. Now enjoying his retirement with his wife, the 93-year-old veteran of over 70 films shared some of his personal memories of making the original Star Wars trilogy.
Read more after the jump…
Hailing from Beckenham, South London, Stuart Freeborn had always harbored an interest in the craft of make-up. Practicing on himself, he could often be found on the leafy streets of Beckenham as assorted characters such as an old man, a monster, or even an alarmingly convincing woman! He produced his own set of pictures showing off his skills and sent them off to various movie studios in England. After much persistence Freeborn was hired by Guy Pearce, the head of make-up at Denham Studios, which lead to an illustrious career on a number of films.
While working on Richard Donner’s horror film The Omen, Freeborn was offered a job on something called The Star Wars. “A young man walked into my make-up lab and asked me if I was Stuart Freeborn and introduced himself as George Lucas. He told me that he was preparing this film called The Star Wars and that he had a sequence called the ‘cantina scene’ that would feature lots of weird aliens. At that time, science fiction films tended to be very clean and didn’t have a lived-in quality, so I really wanted to do something a bit different, more real if you like. He had heard that I had made some creatures and he wanted to see them. They were in my attic at home, so I said I’d bring them in the next day. The funny thing was that he seemed very young, and for a moment I thought he was just joking. You have to remember that directors were a lot older in those days, so George was rather unusual.” The next day, Freeborn brought some of his work into the studio to present to Lucas, but one creature in particular caught the young director’s eye. “He was fascinated by this ‘Little Green Man’ that I had built for a TV advertisement for Birdseye Peas. It had this head shaped like a pea, odd round insectoid eyes and a small mouth with a tiny little nose and no ears. It didn’t have a split [a zippered opening], so the actor wearing it had to just pull it over the head. George really liked this design, but we couldn’t use it because Birdseye had already used it and owned the copyright. In the end I changed it a little bit and a version of the creature appears in the film.”
Given the sheer scale of ambition, what did Freeborn make of the script? “Well, to be honest, I started reading the script before I accepted the job and I didn’t think much of it! I was going to turn it down, but I kept on with it and by the time I got to the end, I really liked it.”
Read the full-length feature in issue 102 of Star Wars Insider – on sale June 17. For more information visit www.titanmagazines.com/starwars.