Stuart Freeborn, a pioneering movie makeup artist behind creatures such as Yoda and Chewbacca in the Star Wars films, has died at 98. LucasFilm confirmed yesterday that Freeborn had passed away, "leaving a legacy of unforgettable contributions." George Lucas said in a statement that Freeborn was "already a makeup legend" when he started working on Star Wars. "He brought with him not only decades of experience, but boundless creative energy. His artistry and craftsmanship will live on forever in the characters he created."
Freeborn began his film career in the 1930s, honing his makeup skills on stars including Marlene Dietrich and Vivien Leigh. Freeborn later worked with Stanley Kubrick, transforming Peter Sellers into multiple characters for Doctor Strangelove before designing the apes for 2001's "Dawn of Man" sequence. LucasFilm said that Irvin Kershner, who directed The Empire Strikes Back, would "note that Freeborn quite literally put himself into Yoda, as the Jedi master's inquisitive and mischievous elfin features had more than a passing resemblance to Freeborn himself." Freeborn once recalled being approached by "this young fellow" named George Lucas. "He was so genuine about it, I thought, well, young as he is, I believe in him. He's got something. I'll do what I can for him."