Douglas Trumbull, visual effects master known for 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner, dies


Douglas Trumbull, a master of visual effects who gave cinema audiences indelible images of the future and space in films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Blade Runner, has died after a year – long fight against cancer.

His wife Julia Trumbull said he died Monday of complications from mesothelioma. He was 79.

“He was an absolute genius and a magician, and his contributions to the motion picture and special effects industries will live on for decades and beyond,” his daughter Amy Trumbull continued Facebook.

Producer and documentary filmmaker Charles de Lauzirika, who worked with Trumbull on Blade Runner: The Final Cut, tweeted that Trumbull “not only invents great visuals, but also pursues the big ideas behind every story he tells.”

Trumbull was born in Los Angeles in 1942, the son of visual effects supervisor Donald Trumbull, who was working on The Wizard of Oz. The younger Trumbull started at Graphic Works Films, where one of his short films caught the attention of Stanley Kubrick, who was just beginning work on 2001: A Space Odyssey.

At the age of 23, Trumbull not only talked himself into a key job on 2001, but also helped reinvent the process that would be used to create the iconic Stargate sequence at the end of the film.

“It was a really unique time because we were at this Borehamwood Studios outside of London and it was a heavily unionized studio,” he said in an interview. “Here I am, this weird young 23-year-old cowboy from LA who they’ve adopted more than anything as a mascot of sorts.

“It didn’t scare them that I would go between all these different departments and have components built for me to do the things I wanted to do… and we did some pretty amazing things that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.” “

Over the course of his career, which more recently has included work on Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, he has pioneered filmmaking techniques such as the slit film photography used on 2001. He also developed the Showscan film process, in which 70mm film is projected at 60 frames per second to create a sense of heightened reality.

After making his name with 2001, he worked on Robert Wise’s adaptation of The Andromeda Strain, Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Wise’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner .”

He made his directorial debut with Silent Running, a dystopian sci-fi film starring Bruce Dern about plants on Earth becoming extinct. Roger Ebert wrote in his review that Trumbull is “one of the best sci-fi special effects guys. “Silent Running,” whose space effects are every bit as good as “2001,” also presents him as an intelligent, if not sensational, director.”

He also directed the 1983 sci-fi film Brainstorm, which was reputed to be Natalie Wood’s final role. Wood died during a break in production after most of her scenes were completed. Wood’s mysterious death in the waters off Catalina Island and subsequent battles with MGM shook Trumbull, and he said in an interview that he had no interest in doing another Hollywood film.

“I just had to quit,” he told the Hollywood Reporter in 2013. “I’ve been a writer and director my whole life, and I decided it wasn’t for me because I had a really challenging personal experience to go through. I don’t think the story was ever told. I don’t know the story myself, but I know what I experienced. I’ve decided to leave the film business.”

But he hasn’t just retired. He developed the Back to the Future ride at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida and Los Angeles and eventually returned to Hollywood after about 30 years to work on Tree of Life, where he discussed the beginning of the universe served as a consultant to Sequence and an experimental sci-fi short, UFOTOG, among other projects.

Trumbull received three Oscar nominations for visual effects (“Blade Runner”, “Star Trek” and “Close Encounters”) and a special scientific and technical award in 1992 for his work on the design of the CP-65 Showscan camera system for motion picture photography.

In 2012, he received the Academy’s Gordon E. Sawyer Award, a special technical Oscar for his contributions to the industry. Most recently, he worked on a documentary about 2001 and developed a science fiction screenplay with John Sayles.

The family said in a statement: “In Trumbull’s memory and his love of the giant screen, we hope you will support your local theatres.” Douglas Trumbull, visual effects master known for 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner, dies

Caroline Bleakley

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