In Depth

Five stories about Stuart Freeborn that aren't made up

Make-up artist who created Yoda, Chewbacca and Stanley Kubrick's apes has died at the age of 98

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STUART FREEBORN, the British make-up artist who created the Star Wars characters Yoda, Chewbacca and Jabba the Hutt, has died at the age of 98. Born in east London, he spent six decades in the film industry and worked on seminal movies including the 1948 version of Oliver Twist and Stanley Kubrick's 1968 epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Here are five things you may not know about the man described as "the grandfather of modern make-up design".

He got his first job by impersonating Ethiopia's last emperor Haile Selassie: In 1935, The Times reported that Selassie had been seen driving a car in London. It was in fact Freeborn, with "nose, beard and make-up attached," writes his former assistant Nick Maley. Freeborn was temporarily detained by police, but used the newspaper report of his escapade to land a job as a make-up artist at Denham Studios in Buckinghamshire.

He was horrified when the Fagin he created for Oliver Twist was called anti-Semitic: Freeborn says he gave Fagin (played by Alec Guiness) a large beaked nose because producers wanted a look that was similar to "cartoon depictions" in the book by Charles Dickens. Freeborn always "regretted" the fact that so many people were offended by his creation, particularly because he was "part-Jewish".

He should have won an Oscar for the apes he made for 2001: A Space Odyssey: The Guardian says Freeborn's work on Kubrick's sci-fi masterpiece was "groundbreaking". The apes he created for the 'Dawn of Man' sequence, in which primates encounter a mysterious monolith, took two years. Comedian Ronnie Corbett was one of the many actors who took part in make-up tests before the primates were considered finished. But Freeborn didn't win the Oscar for best make-up, possibly because many people thought Kubrick's apes were real animals.

Yoda was inspired by Einstein: Freeborn based the wizened features of the Jedi Master on Albert Einstein and his own face. Star Wars creator George Lucas paid tribute to the make-up artist yesterday telling The BBC that Freeborn was "a make-up legend" before he began working with him on 1980's The Empire Strikes Back.

He created a make-up dynasty: Freeborn's late son, Graham, became a make-up artist and worked with his father on several Star Wars movies. Graham's daughter, Michelle Freeborn, is also a make-up artist.

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