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Early in his career, Stan Winston had two major jobs on CBS TV movies that showcased his talents. One was for creating Satan’s handymen in 1972’s Gargoyles, the other for aging Cicely Tyson from 23 to 110 in 1974’s The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Both would bring him Emmys for outstanding makeup.
The idea behind Gargoyles was that in the distant past, Satan sent creatures to Earth who were living quietly in caves near Carlsbad, New Mexico. The Dark Lord has instructed them to lay low until they have a good shot at ruling the world. But before the takeover can happen, a visiting paleontologist (Cornel Wilde, a best actor Oscar nominee for 1945’s A Song to Remember) is shown an odd skeleton by a crusty old local named Uncle Willie, who says, “Them devils used to live up there in the rocks.” The scientist brings the skull to his motel room and, as the expression goes, all hell breaks loose.
In an interesting bit of casting, the lead gargoyle was played by NFL wide receiver Bernie Casey (who a year later co-starred in Cleopatra Jones). Though Winston did additional TV work in the 1970s (he created the Wookiee costumes for The Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978), it was his film work that’s best remembered. He won visual effects Oscars for 1986’s Aliens, 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day and 1993’s Jurassic Park. He died at 62 in 2008.
This story first appeared in a July stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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