Joe Viskocil, a pyrotechnics expert who worked on the first two Star Wars films and earned an Oscar for his visual effects wizardry on Independence Day, has died. He was 63.
Viskocil died Monday in a Los Angeles hospital from complications of liver and kidney failure, according to talent agent Derek Maki of Coolwaters Productions.
For Star Wars (1977), Viskocil assisted John Dykstra and George Lucas‘ newly created Industrial Light & Magic to create the spectacular explosion of the Death Star in the film’s climactic ending. He then returned for Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
Viskocil shared his Oscar with Volker Engel, Douglas Smith and Clay Pinney for Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day (1996), which is best known for its scene of aliens blowing up the White House.
Viskocil also was credited for pyrotechnic work on such films as Ghostbusters (1984), Masters of the Universe (1987), Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988), Batman Returns (1992), True Lies (1994), Johnny Mnemonic (1995), Battlefield Earth (2000), Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) and Source Code (2011).
He created the nuclear explosion featured in The Return of the Living Dead (1985) and also worked on Barton Fink (1991), The Terminator (1984) and its 1991 sequel, The Abyss (1989), Alien: Resurrection (1997), Panic Room (2002) and Team America: World Police (2004).
His most recent credit is The Prey, an action horror thriller starring Danny Trejo that’s due in theaters in October.