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AP Film Writer
Douglas Trumbull, a visual effects master who showed movie audiences indelible images of the future and of space in films like “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Blade Runner,” has died. He was 79.
His wife Julia Trumbull said he died Monday of complications from mesothelioma.
Born in Los Angeles in 1942, Trumbull’s father was visual effects supervisor Donald Trumbull, who worked on “The Wizard of Oz.” He got his start at Graphic Works Films, where a short of his caught the attention of Stanley Kubrick who was beginning work on “2001: A Space Odyssey.” At 23 years old, he not only talked himself into a key job on “2001” but helped innovate the process that would be used to create the iconic star-gate sequence.
Over the course of his career, which recently included work on Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” he pushed forward filmmaking techniques like slit-scan photography, which was used for “2001.” He also developed the Showscan film process, in which 70mm film is projected at 60 frames per second to create a sense of heightened reality.
After he made a name for himself on “2001,” he worked on Robert Wise’s adaptation of “The Andromeda Strain,” Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Wise’s “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” and Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner.”
He made his directorial debut with “Silent Running,” a dystopian sci-fi film starring Bruce Dern in which plant life is becoming extinct on earth. Roger Ebert, in his review, wrote that Trumbull “is one of the best science-fiction special-effects men. ‘Silent Running,’ which has deep space effects every bit the equal of those in ‘2001,’ also introduces him as an intelligent, if not sensational, director.”
He also directed the 1983 sci-fi film “Brainstorm,” which had the distinction of being Natalie Wood’s last role. Wood died during a break in production after most of her scenes had been completed. The tragic death and the subsequent fights with MGM soured Trumbull on the business and he said in an interview that he had no interest in doing another Hollywood feature.
He didn’t exactly retire though — he developed the “Back to the Future” ride at Universal Studios in Orlando and Los Angeles from his new home in the Berkshires.
The family said in a statement that, “In Trumbull’s memory and his love of the giant screen, we hope that you will support your local theaters.”