Posted: Tuesday August 14, 2012
Make-Up Artist magazine
Italian make-up effects artist Carlo Rambaldi, best known for his work on John Guillermin's King Kong, Ridley Scott’s Alien and Steven Spielberg’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, died Aug. 10 in Southern Italy. He was 86. His death, which followed a long illness, was announced by Mario Caligiuri of the Calabria region's cultural affairs council.
Rambaldi was born in Vigarano, Italy, in 1925. He attended the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna and had a successful career as an artist before he started working on films. His first make-up effects creation was a fire-breathing dragon in the 1957 Italian film Sigfrido. He worked on ’60s and ’70s horror films, including Andy Warhol's Frankenstein and Andy Warhol's Dracula, as well as Dario Argento's thriller Deep Red.
Producer Dino de Laurentiis commissioned Rambaldi to work on the ape effects for the 1976 remake of King Kong. For the film, he collaborated on animatronic masks, suits and a 42-foot-tall King Kong. This achievement lead to a Special Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences during the 49th Academy Awards; he shared the award with Glen Robinson and Frank Van der Veer.
In his acceptance speech, Rambaldi said, “Thank you for Academy. Thank you for Dino de Laurentiis—I don’t too much speak English—who gave us opportunity to create Kong. Grazie.”
Rambaldi moved to the United States in the mid-1970s and stayed more than a decade, working on films including Dune and Conan the Destroyer. Once in the United States, he learned mechatronics, a mix of mechanical and electronic engineering used to produce special effects. This knowledge helped him design and build the aliens of Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind and an eyeless animatronic head for Alien, which garnered him his second Oscar, this time in the Visual Effects category. (He shared the award with H.R. Giger, Brian Johnson, Nick Allder and Denys Ayling.)
One of his most iconic creations is the marooned alien in 1982’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. For E.T., Rambaldi used steel, polyurethane, rubber and hydraulic and electronic controls to create an alien with large eyes and wrinkled skin (in some scenes E.T. was played by an actor in a suit). The alien was capable of 150 separate moves, like wrinkling his nose, furrowing his brow and extending his neck. Rambaldi, Dennis Muren and Kenneth F. Smith won a Visual Effects Academy Award for their work on that film.
Rambaldi’s last credited work was the 1988 horror film Primal Rage, directed by his son Vittorio.
According to The Guardian of London, Rambaldi is survived by his wife, Bruna; his sons Vittorio and Alex and his daughter Daniela; and his granddaughters Cristina, Erica and Alessandra. Information about any kind of services was not available at press time.