Kit West, Oscar-Winning Effects Artist on 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,' Dies at 80
The Londoner's impressive résumé includes work on 'Return of the Jedi,' 'Young Sherlock Holmes,' 'Dragonheart' and 'Dune.'
Kit West, the mechanical special effects ace behind such films as Raiders of the Lost Ark, for which he won an Academy Award, and Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi, has died. He was 80.
West, who also received Oscar nominations for his work on Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) and Dragonheart (1996), died Saturday at his home in London, a representative from the Berlin Associates agency told The Hollywood Reporter.
West was responsible for the "old school" mechanical effects on Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Return of the Jedi (1983). On the latter, he oversaw all the robots, including the radio-controlled R2-D2, and received a BAFTA award.
Raiders of the Lost Ark marked the first time he collaborated with director Steven Spielberg. "Although I found it very demanding," West said in a 2010 interview, "I always had the feeling that his demands and criticisms were well justified and also had the feeling we were working on a product which was to be successful. How true that was."
West shared the visual effects Oscar for Raiders with Richard Edlund, Bruce Nicholson and Joe Johnston.
He also worked on such notable films as Battle of the Bulge (1965), Lost Command (1966), Woody Allen's Love and Death (1975), The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), Dune (1984), Stargate (1994), Spielberg's Empire of the Sun (1987), Enemy at the Gates (2001) and The Bourne Supremacy (2004).
Born in London, West started out as a trainee camera assistant with the documentary company Realist Film Unit, for which he produced government and military training films.
After two years in the British Army, where he was introduced to pyrotechnics, he became the in-house cameraman for a company owned by special effects man Les Bowie (2001: A Space Odyssey) and began working on features in the early 1960s.