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.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

An Iranian Woman Was Sentenced to Death for Killing Her Alleged Rapist. Can Activists Save Her?

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

The Ludicrous Claims Women Are Pitched at “Egg Freezing Parties”

Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
Oct. 1 2014 1:11 PM This Company Wants to Fight World Hunger With Flies 
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 2:08 PM We Need to Talk: Terrible Name, Good Show
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Oct. 1 2014 1:53 PM Slate Superfest East How to get your tickets before anyone else.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 1:13 PM The Essence of Gender Roles in Action Movies, in One Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 12:01 PM Rocky Snow
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.