Star Wars makeup artist who made Yoda + Chewbacca dies at 98

Contributed by
Feb 7, 2013, 12:41 PM EST (Updated)

The man who created the iconic faces of Yoda and Chewbacca, Stuart Freeborn, has passed away at the age of 98. 

Freeborn was a skilled makeup artist who worked on George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy and was tasked with translating characters such as Chewie, Jabba the Hutt and Yoda from sketches to real life. Lucasfilm confirmed Freeborn’s passing with a statement Wednesday, saying the legend is "leaving a legacy of unforgettable contributions."

Though he’s probably best know to geeks for his work on Star Wars, Freeborn also worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove, The Omen, Superman and dozens more films during his decades-spanning career.

Freeborn’s contributions to the world of cinema are innumerable, and even Lucas himself opened up about how much the makeup artist will be missed:

"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. His Star Wars creatures may be reinterpreted in new forms by new generations, but at their heart, they continue to be what Stuart created for the original films."

Interestingly, an old story from the Star Wars days says that Freeborn actually modeled Yoda partially after himself. Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner noted, “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."

With rumors of a new Yoda spinoff film swirling, not to mention the new trilogy and other rumored standalone films, it looks like Freeborn’s design contributions will live on for decades to come.

(Via HitFix)