Legend of special effects cited three times at the Oscar, in charge of the visual effects of “2001 a space odyssey” by Stanley Kubrick, “Blade Runner” or even “Encounter of the 3rd type”, Douglas Trumbull comes from s died at the age of 79.
Without him, Stanley Kubrick would probably never have been able to materialize the vision he had for 2001: a space odyssey. A work entered into the Pantheon of the 7th art, in particular thanks to its visual effects, revolutionary and never seen before. “Him” is Douglas Trumbull, Hollywood legend of special and visual effects. This giant in his chosen field has just passed away at the age of 79 following cancer and a brain tumor, according to information given by variety.
A genius inventor, we owe him the direction of the visual effects of SF masterpieces such as Steven Spielberg’s Meeting of the Third Kind, those of Star Trek or those of Blade Runner. Three films which each time earned him an Oscar citation.
He was also the director of a SF film that has become a classic in its genre, Silent Running, and the unfortunate director of the cursed film Brainstorm in 1983, which will be bereaved by the tragic death of its main actress, Natalie Wood.
Burned and restrained by the Hollywood industry, Douglas Trumbull then left to settle in Massachusetts, to work in particular on the design of new cameras, very superior to those used by Peter Jackson on The Hobbit and James Cameron, as well than on new immersive forms of cinema. In 2011, Terrence Malick called on him to manage the visual effects of his Tree of Life.
In November 2016, we had the privilege of meeting this legend as part of the Amiens International Film Festival. The man was affable, generous. His precise memories as on the first day. We talked at length behind the scenes of the creation of Kubrick’s film, on which he worked when he was barely 23 years old. As he said himself, “It was the greatest school of all time to work with Stanley Kubrick, who was my mentor”.
A youthful passion for SF
His passion for Science Fiction dates back to his childhood. Son of Don Trumbull, a mechanical engineer who himself worked in the cinema in the visual effects on the films The Wizard of Oz and even Star Wars, the young Douglas drew ships, aliens and planets in his notebooks. He also harbored a passion for animation, particularly the work of Walt Disney.
If he dreamed of being an architect, he will eventually be an illustrator. He knocks on the door of several studios, including UPAthe animation studio behind the creation of the Cartoons Mr Magoo. He is told that he is in the wrong place, before sending him to present his portfolio to another company called Graphic Filmswhere he very quickly obtained a position.
“In fact, Graphic Films made special films for NASA and the US Air Force. They were commissioned films for internal uses. One of the films I worked on was for the Apollo program and the Mercury program. J I was then illustrating spaceships, landing modules, lunar bases… I was in charge of all the background paintings of these spaceships and rockets. These films were to be used to promote the NASA program within the government itself as well as in Congress. These little films had educational value.” explained Douglas Trumbull.
“That’s how the company got a contract for the New York World’s Fair in 1964-65 to make a movie called To the Moon & Beyond, along with three others. It was projected in a circular room sheltered under a dome, with a process called Cinerama 360. The image was circular and in 70mm, and the film was shot in 24 frames per second. It was my first film, which was already in a very unusual format!”
Among the enthusiastic spectators of To the Moon & Beyond featured two individuals who were working to put together a film that was both realistic and science fiction: Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke. This is where our video interview below begins.
Si Douglas Trumbull testified to a real admiration for Kubrick, this did not prevent him from returning at the end of our interview to the very inelegant behavior of the latter about the attribution of the only Oscar for the film and the master…