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Stuart Freeborn

Film make-up artist and designer;

Born: September 5, 1914; Died: February 5, 2013.

Stuart Freeborn, who has died aged 98, created the look of some of cinema's most famous exotic characters – from Alec Guinness's Fagin, whose hook nose prompted riots in the 1940s, to Yoda, the little Star Wars alien, whose features Freeborn based on his own.

Freeborn got personal make-up tips from Marlene Dietrich, clashed with Laurence Olivier when he smeared Vivien Leigh's lipstick with kisses and helped transform Peter Sellers into three totally different characters in Stanley Kubrick's anti-war satire Dr Strangelove (1964).

But it was science fiction that gave Freeborn greatest scope, most notably 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), with its dramatic Dawn of Man sequence, and then the Star Wars trilogy (1977-1983), on which he played a key role in creating many of the characters, including Chewbacca, Jabba the Hutt and the Ewoks.

For Yoda, he simply looked in the mirror and modelled the little chap on himself. And perhaps after sketching the design Freeborn thought to himself "Good it is". He added just a pinch of Einstein to complete the appearance of the green-skinned, pointy-eared, high-browed Jedi master who was an expert on just about everything except syntax.

The son of a Lloyds insurance broker, Freeborn was born in London in 1914. His father wanted him to follow him into insurance, but he had more creative ambitions. He recalled that at school his were the paintings that got put on the wall. He enjoyed the Universal horror films of the early 1930s, going home and doing his best to reproduce the make-up, turning himself into Frankenstein's monster.

After leaving school at 14, he had a string of short-term jobs, while continuing to teach himself make-up effects. He created his own designs and sent photos to studios all over Britain.

He was taken on at the new Denham Film Studios in the mid-1930s and quickly graduated from simply applying make-up to doing research for period films, designing the look of characters and improving materials and techniques.

There was international controversy over his design for Fagin in David Lean's 1948 version of Oliver Twist, with riots in Berlin. Many felt the design was an anti-Semitic caricature.

Freeborn, who was part Jewish, said they tried two versions, one based on Dickens's description and the original 19th century illustrations, with the hooked nose and long beard, the other a toned-down version, minus hooked nose. But it was thought the latter looked more like Christ than Fagin.

Freeborn worked with Lean on several films, including Madeleine (1950), which was based around a famous 19th century Glasgow murder case, and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). During the shooting of the latter in Thailand he was almost killed in a car crash.

In a career spanning more than half a century, Freeborn contributed to more than 100 films. He came to the West Highlands for Disney's Kidnapped (1960) and worked on the Superman series of the 1970s and 1980s.

Other films include Murder on the Orient Express (1974), with Albert Finney almost unrecognisable behind heavy make-up as Hercule Poirot, and the horror classic The Omen (1976).

His wife Kay Freeborn, who worked with him as a make-up artist, died last year. One of his sons Graham Freeborn also became a make-up artist. All three of his sons predeceased him.

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