'We lost a legend': Abrams, del Toro, Rodriguez remember Harryhausen
As news spread Tuesday that Ray Harryhausen had died at age 92 there was an especially emotional reaction from sci-fi, horror and fantasy filmmakers — a community with a deep and formative affection for the old-school effects wizard and the work he did on films such as The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and Clash of the Titans (1981). EW reached out to some signature names in those circles on Tuesday to frame the legacy of Harryhausen and by phone and email they responded with praise for a departed master.
J.J. Abrams, director, producer and screenwriter (Star Trek Into Darkness, Lost): “He was, obviously, a genius, infinitely ahead of his time. He inspired us all with his skill and imagination, and will be missed.”
Guillermo del Toro, director, producer, screenwriter and author (Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim): “I lost a member of my family today. A man who was as present in my childhood as any of my relatives. No one will ever compare to Ray Harryhausen. He was a true pioneer, a man who took the mantle of stop-motion and elevated it to an art form. Like all great monster makers, he worked almost single-handed. He was designer, technician, sculptor, painter and cinematographer all at once. To my generation, and to every generation of monster lovers to come, he will stand above all. Forever. His monsters made millions of lonely children smile and hope for a better world- a world populated by Cyclops and griffons and the children of the Hydra. His knowledge, faith and dedication shaped generation after generation of filmmakers. I feel privileged to have met him and to be able to thank him personally for the incalculable amount of love and joy he brought into the world.”
Johnny Depp, actor, producer and musician (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Ed Wood): “There isn’t anything I can say about Ray Harryhausen that hasn’t been said throughout his brilliant life, suffice to salute that Ray was a band-apart, and will be forever loved for his unique genius, and rightly so. It was an honor to have spent time with him. My thoughts are with his loved ones.”
Robert Rodriguez, director, producer and sreenwriter (Sin City, Spy Kids): “Ray is the reason I became a filmmaker. He inspired me with his hands on, do it yourself filmmaking. Filled with imagination and painstaking craftsmanship. A treasure.”
Damon Lindelof, screenwriter and producer (Prometheus, Lost): “The word ‘legend’ gets thrown around a bit too much in our industry. That said, today we lost a legend. A pioneer. A genius. And an inspiration.”
Terry Gilliam, director, animator and screenwriter (Brazil, Twelve Monkeys): Ray Harryhausen was the ultimate craftsman, a magician whose hands gave life to inanimate stuff, a god to some, and the sweetest man I ever met.
Dennis Murren, creative director, Industrial Light & Magic (eight-time Oscar winner): “I first visited with him when I was like 13 years old. He was one of the first people whose names people can identify with stop-motion animation and with puppets and it’s because they are real. You can look at them and you may not know how they are moving but you know that you could touch them. It’s the light, it’s the textures…One of the first times I understood that films were made by people was when I learned his name. He was a maker of magic, to me, and a maker of fanciful creatures and fantastic adventures in exotic, faraway exotic places. He was the only person doing that in L.A., in Hollywood, for years. Nobody could understand that there was market for those films, they didn’t know how to make them and [it wasn’t their focus] it was about the love interest or the humor — the jokes Phil Silvers was trying to make — but Ray took it very seriously and as an audience member you took it seriously also. The stories treated everyone with respect and they transported you to these places. You were seeing a giant 30-foot Cyclops and it may have moved kind of funny but it was the scariest-looking thing you had ever seen. It felt real because it was an object, you weren’t seeing something that looked like it was stuck on the film. It didn’t look fake in the way CG that is hurried can look. CG that’s hurried can look 2-D and cold but any sort of puppet thing you can sense its existence.”
Edgar Wright, director, producer and writer (Scott Pilgrim, Shaun of the Dead):”I have loved every single frame of Ray Harryhausen’s work. He quite simply was the man who made me believe in monsters. His stop frame creations are some of the most influential images in all of cinema and the painstaking process involved still wows today. Ironically, he inspired the technicians that would supersede his gargantuan efforts, but we still look in awe at Ray’s legacy while whole armies of purely CGI monsters just fade in the memory. He won’t be forgotten.”