Carlo Rambaldi, the special-effects genius who won three Oscars for his work on the 1976 version of King Kong, Ridley Scott's Alien and Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, passed away Friday at his home in Italy. He was 86.
Born in Italy in 1925, Rambaldi began his career working on films in his native country before transitioning to America. In the early '70s, he worked on Andy Warhol's Dracula and Frankenstein films, and also worked with now-legendary Italian horror directors, doing special effects for Dario Argento's Deep Red and Lucio Fulci's A Lizard in a Woman's Skin.
In 1976, he worked on his first major American production, the remake of King Kong from director John Guillermin. Rambaldi received a a special achievement Academy Award for his work designing and constructing the title character. Then Spielberg came calling.
After designing aliens for the closing sequence of Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Rambaldi lent his expertise to Ridley Scott's Alien, earning his second Oscar for his work on the construction of the xenomorph creature. He collaborated with Spielberg again in 1982, designing and constructing the iconic title character for E.T.., for which he won his third Oscar.
Rambaldi continued to work in Hollywood throughout the 1980s, doing special effects and creature designs for Dune, Conan the Destroyer, Silver Bullet and Cat's Eye, among others. He was largely retired by the '90s, doing occasional effects work and returning to Italy.
Mario Caligiuri, a cultural official in the Calabria region of Italy, where Rambaldi lives, called him a "a magician of special effects" and "an indisputable example of Italian creativity."