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Richard Edlund

Richard Edlund

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: December 6, 1940 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Fargo, North Dakota, USA Profession: special effects producer, visual effects supervisor, visual effects designer, inventor, executive, producer, visual effects photographer, director of photography, letter designer, cable car driver, photographer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

s of the Lost Ark" (1981). When Harrison Ford¿s archeologist Indiana Jones digs for the Ark of the Covenant, overhead are stormy skies filled with heavenly disturbances, an effect Edlund created by floating chemicals in a glass tank separated by layers of salt water, resulting in eerie cloud formations. Another scene involving a jeep full of Nazi soldiers plummeting off a cliff was done with miniatures and puppets against a matte painting. But the most memorable sequence by far was the explosive ending, where Nazi villains get their just desserts by gazing into the forbidden Ark. To create the floating apparitions who drift among the bewildered soldiers, puppets covered in tattered cloth were pulled through water to create a wispy, ethereal effect. The result was both eerie and convincing; such water-based techniques were put to use again the following year with Tobe Hooper¿s "Poltergeist," a modern-day ghost story aimed at mature audiences that nearly earned an R rating. Edlund and ILM pulled out all the stops, creating wispy ghosts and also demon-like creatures that bordered on disturbing. The crew also created stormy skies and a tornado, as well as the seemingly impossible feat of depicting the...

s of the Lost Ark" (1981). When Harrison Ford¿s archeologist Indiana Jones digs for the Ark of the Covenant, overhead are stormy skies filled with heavenly disturbances, an effect Edlund created by floating chemicals in a glass tank separated by layers of salt water, resulting in eerie cloud formations. Another scene involving a jeep full of Nazi soldiers plummeting off a cliff was done with miniatures and puppets against a matte painting. But the most memorable sequence by far was the explosive ending, where Nazi villains get their just desserts by gazing into the forbidden Ark. To create the floating apparitions who drift among the bewildered soldiers, puppets covered in tattered cloth were pulled through water to create a wispy, ethereal effect. The result was both eerie and convincing; such water-based techniques were put to use again the following year with Tobe Hooper¿s "Poltergeist," a modern-day ghost story aimed at mature audiences that nearly earned an R rating. Edlund and ILM pulled out all the stops, creating wispy ghosts and also demon-like creatures that bordered on disturbing. The crew also created stormy skies and a tornado, as well as the seemingly impossible feat of depicting the suburban home imploding into nothingness during the finale.

After "Poltergeist," Edlund and the ILM crew focused on the last of the original "Star Wars" trilogy, `Return of the Jedi" (1983), again outdoing themselves with space battles even more complex and awe-inspiring than what had come before. By that time "Jedi" was completed, Edlund, who had grown restless at ILM and its Northern California location, was considering whether to start his own company, something he was reluctant to do only because he lacked formal business experience. Edlund was mulling the idea over while in the hospital recovering from back surgery when he received a call from director Ivan Reitman about a supernatural comedy he was putting together which would become "Ghostbusters" (1984). Edlund was excited by the idea, and also took a call from director Peter Hyams, who was planning "2010" (1984), a sequel to "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968). Excited by the challenges of both projects, Edlund decided to form his own company, calling it Boss Film Studios, and assembled the staff and equipment largely from fellow effects guru Douglas Trumbull¿s dismantled Entertainment Effects Group. Drawing upon his experience building ILM from the ground up, Edlund constructed his company from scratch, creating a model division, a machine shop, a matte department and an optical department.

His first two films featured breathtaking effects. For "2010," Edlund and his staff created some of the industry¿s first computer-generated images, depicting the planet Jupiter collapsing upon itself, its bands of clouds swirling under cosmic forces. Tasked with ensuring a sense of absolute realism in contrast with the fantasy space epics he had previously worked on, Edlund chose to depict the mysterious moons of Jupiter with relatively low-grade video cameras to better replicate the grainy imagery TV viewers were accustomed to from actual space flight transmissions. But the remainder of outer space shots, if not the film itself, shared the grace and beauty of the original Stanley Kubrick masterpiece. "Ghost Busters" was a different story. Edlund was tasked to create visuals for a movie that was one-part comedy/one-part horror, filled with scary ghosts and supernatural beasts, juxtaposed with comedic dialogue delivered by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. Drawing upon his experience on "Poltergeist," Edlund created spectral creatures that were scary to behold, including the opening scene featuring a mild-mannered librarian who transforms into a truly terrifying ghost, setting the tone for the rest of the film. At the same time, Edlund¿s crew perfected more comedic beasts, such as a grinning green "Slimmer" who stuffs himself on snacks, envisioned as a cross between comedian John Belushi and something out of "Scooby Doo," and the towering Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, whose all-too-cute face suggests something more sinister. Both films announced to the filmmaking community that there was a new game in town, and that Edlund and his crews were a force to be reckoned with.

Soon the company was commissioned to provide effects for films such as "Die Hard" (1988) where Edlund¿s matte artists provided memorable shots including villain Alan Rickman plummeting from the roof of the infamous hijacked skyscraper. Edlund also contributed effects for "Ghost" (1980) and "Alien 3" (1992), as his company moved steadily away from film and toward emerging digital technology. On Tim Burton¿s "Batman Returns" (1992), Edlund relished using computer animation to create bats and penguins and to improve upon effects such as the Batmobile¿s shield apparatus, which had utilized hand-drawn animation in the first film. Despite his life-long devotion to traditional photography, Edlund had grown frustrated with its limits while digital technology promised much greater freedom and flexibility. Embracing the new tools with renewed vigor, Edlund transitioned completely toward digital compositing with the Sylvester Stallone mountain-climbing actioner "Cliffhanger" (1993).

Digital effects took another leap forward with the Michael Keaton comedy "Multiplicity" (1996) a film which required several cloned versions of its star to occupy the screen at the same time ¿ a relatively simple effect that would have been all but impossible to achieve with any kind of moving camera work, before the advent of digital compositing. By "Air Force One," (1997) Edlund was crashing entirely digitized jumbo jets into the ocean. But a byproduct of the increase in digital technology was the host of new effects firms which came into existence as a result, which foreshadowed the decline of full-service effects facilities like Boss Film. By 1997, after completing sequences for "Batman & Robin" and "Starship Troopers" that year, the company closed its doors. Edlund¿s visual effects work was intermittent but no less significant after his company folded. He supervised the awe-inspiring visuals of angels and other heavenly beings for the 2003 miniseries "Angels in America" (2003) for director Mike Nichols, and worked again for the director for "Charlie Wilson¿s War" (2007). Edlund remained very active in the effects community, serving on the Board of Governors for the Motion Picture Academy as well as the science and museum councils. In 2006, he received a special commendation by the Academy of Motion Pictures, and was honored by the American Society of Cinematographers with the President¿s Outstanding Achievement Award at a 2008 ceremony.

By Matthew Reynoldsa to contribute effect shots for the original television series "Battlestar Galactica" (ABC, 1978) which incorporated very similar effects and technology, before getting another call from Lucas to rejoin the Star Wars series with "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980). This time the company moved north to Marin County, near San Francisco, and although Edlund was reluctant to leave Los Angeles, he plunged full force into rebuilding ILM and meeting a new set of challenges. Eager to explore new ground, the action for the film veered away from outer space and now required Edlund and his camera crew to portray Snowspeeders zipping over the icy plains of Hoth, effectively placing white objects over a white background ¿ a terrific headache at the time. Edlund pushed optical compositing to its limits, supervising the construction of a costly new optical printer just for the film. Again the work paid off, as "The Empire Strikes Back" was a smash hit, and again Edlund and his crew earned Oscars for their efforts.

Having conquered the interstellar reaches of outer space and ice planets, Edlund turned his talents to earthbound yet supernatural directions with the George Lucas-produced, Steven Spielberg-directed "Raider

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
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Milestones close milestones

:
Relocated from Fargo, North Dakota, to Los Angeles where he was raised
:
Developed an interest in photography
:
Took high school sports photos; had some printed in the <i>Los Angeles Examiner</i> at age 15
:
Joined the US Navy after graduating high school
:
Became interested in film during the two years he served in Japan
:
Produced training films in the Navy
:
Steered to attend the USC School of Cinema by a marine staff sergeant he knew in the Fleet Air Photo Lab
:
After film school, referred by the Hollywood unemployment office to a job with a small optical effects firm run by Joe Westheimer, ASC; met many of the great cinematographers
1968:
Dropped out of Hollywood
:
Took still photos of rock bands (including many album covers)
:
Made small experimental films
:
Invented and sold a portable amplifier called "Pignose" that was used by many guitarists
1973:
Returned to Hollywood to work for Bob Abel who was then pioneering visual effects for commercials
1975:
Recruited by George Lucas and special effects supervisor John Dykstra as first cameraman on the special FX unit of "Star Wars"; became a founder of Industrial Light and Magic
1977:
Feature debut, credited with miniature photography and optical effects, "Star Wars", also first association with George Lucas
1978:
First credit for special effects photography, "Battlestar Galactica"
1980:
Credit for special visual effects, "The Empire Strikes Back"
1981:
Served as visual effects supervisor, "Raiders of the Lost Ark"
1983:
Left Industrial Light and Magic
1983:
Worked as a designer with Entertainment Effects
1983:
Founded special FX company, Boss Films Studios; in addition to being president and CEO, served as producer and designer
1989:
Debut as director of photography (special water unit), "Farewell to the King"
:
Worked on the HBO series "Tales From the Crypt" in varying capacities including visual effects, segment producer (opening sequence) and production designer (opening sequence)
1988:
Gave a series of technical lectures in China and Japan under the sponsorship of Eastman Kodak
1990:
Credited as visual effects supervisor on "Ghost", first film for Boss Film Studios
1990:
Debut as a producer, also provided special effects, "Solar Crisis", a Japanese sci-fi thriller
1995:
Credited as producer of the opening sequence of "Tales From the Crypt Presents Demon Knight"
1997:
Supervised the special effects on "Air Force One"
1997:
In August, announced closing of Boss Film Studios
2000:
Served as visual effects supervior on the remake of "Bedazzled"
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Education

US Naval Photographic School: -
University of Southern California: Los Angeles , California - 1961 - 1963

Notes

An ardent student of Japanese culture, Edlund speaks Japanese and has an extensive collection of books on Japan's history, culture and art.

Edlund was honored by Toronto's 1986 Festival of Festivals as part of a "mini-tribute" entitled "Close Encounters" which included film clips and a 30-40 minute question-and-answer session.

"If you look at the 10 top box-office successes of all time. . . you'll see that about seven or eight of them are visual effects movies. We've been able to create environments and battlegrounds and put the audience in places they never could be. There's really nothing under the sun or in the mind that once thought of can't be put on the screen. We're beyond the renaissance in visual effects. In "Star Wars" we built a violin and we had to learn how to play it. We started with scales. Now we're playing concerti."--Edlund in a 1986 NEW YORK TIMES interview.

"In general terms, computer-generated imagery is the new tool in the tool box. It's not going to supplant everything we have; it's a welcome addition that makes possible a great deal of image manipulability that would otherwise be extremely complicated. . . . We're still using matte paintings like Georges Melies did in 1900, and we're still using rubber for special makeups and, in some cases, traditional optical effects. All these things combine to give us more flexibility to satisfy the seemingly insatiable appetite our audience has." --Richard Edlund quoted in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 1990 Commercial Production Report, November 13, 1990

"I'm a real believer in not wanting the audience to be aware of an effect. To do that, my first choice would be to create the effect in-camera, even if it makes the shoot more complex. If that doesn't work, we divide it up into elements that can be composited digitally. It might sound pedestrian, but effects that are obvious are a dead giveaway because of the lighting. We pride ourselves on trying to make the lighting interactive. In a nutshell, that's the secret of a really great effect--matching the lighting on different pieces of film." --Richard Edlund quoted in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 1990 Commercial Production Report, November 13, 1990

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