Take Two for February 7, 2013

Stuart Freeborn, 'Star Wars' make-up artist, dies at 98

Stuart Freeborn

Industrial Light and Magic

Make-up artist Stuart Freeborn works on the Chewbacca character's make up for "Star Wars."

Hollywood is mourning the loss of one of its greatest make-up artists. Stuart Freeborn passed away earlier this week in London, he was 98 years old. Freeborn created classic characters such as Yoda, Chewbacca, and Jabba the Hutt from the original "Star Wars" trilogy.

For more on his life and work, we're joined now by Nick Dudman, a fellow make up artist whose work you may have seen in the "Harry Potter" films.  

Interview Highlights:

On working with Stuart Freeborn to prepare Yoda for his first day on the 'Star Wars' set:
"I think we worked a couple of nights in a row all the way through to get it ready because it was a very strict deadline. Myself and another guy Bob Keen…had been helping Stuart literally bolt it all together and about four in the morning, Stuart went, 'OK that’s it we're done'. It was due on set at eight o'clock in the morning. Stuart went home to a flat he had around the corner from the studios. Bob and I just emptied out a load of old foam rubber prosthetics out on the floor and sort of curled up on them and passed out. 

"Got up at six and walked back into the room and Stuart had come back. He had taken the entire bloody thing to bits just because he thought he could make the blink be just that little bit quicker. We stood there an I just remember going 'Bob, let him live!' You just wanted to pick him up and bounce him around the room. It was just like, "What have you done?"

On Freeborn's work ethic:
"He was an absolute perfectionist…he would rather it went on set a couple of hours late and work to his standard than he stand there knowing that it could be, if he had another hour, just that little bit better. That's something I learned from him. There's always a way of improving something and if you fail to spot whats wrong with your work, where it could be improved somewhere, then you should stop because you've lost your eye."

On the origin of Chewbacca: 
"Chewbacca was really just an extension of the work he had done on "2001: A Space Odyssey" when he did the apes for the opening sequence for Stanley Kubrick. And the technology of how you made the lips move using the performers own tongue and mouth and jaw, Chewbacca was a sort of extension of that just a more refined version." 

On the origin of Yoda:
"With Yoda, that was a whole new thing. They brought in Jim Henson to discuss it because it was very much a Muppet. And puppetry wasn't something people had really explored. The reason Yoda made such an impact is it was the most sophisticated puppet anyone had tried to build at that time. So you had the combination of it being manipulated expertly by someone like Frank Oz, who could do it in his sleep, but also the fact that you had these mechanical eyes and ears. It was just a meshing together of technology and puppeting skills that fell into place."


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