Hollywood Visionaries Who Resemble Their Own Creations

Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 8 2013 4:05 PM

Hollywood Visionaries Who Resemble Their Own Creations

Makeup artist and Yoda creator Stuart Freeborn

Photo courtesy of Apollo Pictures/Imdb.com

Stuart Freeborn, the Hollywood makeup artist who helped design some of the most iconic characters in cinematic history, died this week at age 98. Freeborn is best known for his supervision of the original Star Wars franchise, but the British designer’s work in the industry extended far beyond that galaxy.

Aisha Harris Aisha Harris

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

In a career that began (uncredited) with the 1936 film Rembrandt, and continued for more than 50 years, Freeborn contributed to such memorable movies as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. Shockingly, he was never nominated for an Oscar, but the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films saw fit to recognize him twice.


Among his designs was the wise little green creature Yoda, whom he modeled after Albert Einstein and his own likeness—making him one of several Hollywood visionaries who had some fun creating their fictional doppelgängers. Below, we have compiled a few of our favorite makeup artists, puppeteers, and special effects people who resemble their own creations.

H.R. Giger

H.R. Giger
Left: H.R. Giger. Right: Giger's "Bullet Babies" sculpture.

Photo of H.R. Giger by Matthias Belz/Wikimedia Commons."Bullet Babies" photo byMatěj Stuchlík/Wikimedia Commons

The Academy Award-winning visual effects specialist H.R. Giger helped to create the memorable monster in Alien. And while we would never suggest that the Swiss* artist looks anything like that extra-terrestrial antagonist, his surrealist sculptures of “Bullet Babies” do bear an uncanny resemblance.

Carlo Rambaldi

Carlo Rambaldi with E.T.

Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto

The special effects designer won the Oscar for Alien alongside Giger, and, like his collaborator, he was inspired to create art out of his own likeness. One of his most lasting contributions to cinema was E.T., whom David Lynch once suggested looked exactly like Rambaldi. We’re inclined to agree with him.

Rick Baker

Rick Baker.
Left: Rick Baker. Right: Harry.

Photo of Rick Baker byAlberto E. Rodriguez©2012 Getty Images. Photo of Harry by Amblin Entertainment © 1987

The seven-time Oscar winner has a knack for the weird, terrifying, and the silly in his visual effects, but his design for the lovable Bigfoot Harry is amongst his proudest achievements. “I really loved that character,” he’s said, and it’s not hard to understand his appreciation. Baker clearly put a lot of himself into this particular artistic vision.

Tim Burton

Tim Burton.
Left: Tim Burton. Right: Edward Scissorhands.

Photo of Tim Burton by Larry Busacca©2012 Getty Images. Still of Edward Scissorhands fromYouTube

Burton and Johnny Depp have collaborated so many times now that the they seem almost like two sides of one creative coin. That mind-meld likely began way back with Edward Scissorhands, their first film together, when Depp not only realized his director's creative vision, but managed to resemble him in the process.

*Correction, Feb. 8: This post originally referred to H.R. Giger as Swedish. Giger was born in Switzerland.



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 22 2014 8:07 AM Why Haven’t the Philadelphia Eagles Ever Won a Super Bowl?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 7:47 AM Predicting the Future for the U.S. Government The strange but satisfying work of creating the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.