Stuart Freeborn, movie makeup genius who worked on the Star Wars trilogy, is dead at 98.
Stuart Freeborn, movie makeup artist, creator of Yoda and Chewbacca, is dead. Old age and a combination of ailments were the cause of death; he was 98 years old.
Freeborn – whose career goes back to the 1930s – was already a legend when he went to work for George Lucas, helping to create the original Star Wars in 1977. He went on to work on The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, helping to create iconic characters like Jabba the Hutt. But it was Yoda Freeborn was most personally involved in; people said at the time that the diminutive Jedi master had more than a passing resemblance to Freeborn himself.
Freeborn recalled his time working on Star Wars fondly, and said of Lucas, “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.”
“His artistry and craftsmanship will live on forever in the characters he created,” said Lucas on learning of Freeborn’s death. “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.”
Freeborn’s long career embraced many different genres, over the seven decades of his working life. Some of the highlights include The Thief of Bagdad, The Dam Busters, Doctor Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Omen, The Great Muppet Caper, and the Christopher Reeve Superman movies.
Freeborn is survived by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His three sons – including the makeup artist Graham Freeborn, who also worked on the original Star Wars trilogy – predeceased him.