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John Stears being interviewed in
The Men Behind the Mayhem: The SFX of James Bond
August 25, 1934|
London, England, U.K.
|Died||April 28, 1999
Pacific Palisades, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Special Effects Supervisor|
John Stears (25 August 1934 – 28 June 1999) was a British two-time Academy Award-winning special effects expert. Affectionately known as 'The Real Q' he created James Bond's lethal Aston Martin DB5, Luke Skywalker's Landspeeder, the Jedi Knights' lightsabers, the endearing robots R2-D2 and C-3PO as well as a host of other movie gadgets and special effects.
Life and family
John Stears was born in Uxbridge, London, on 25 August 1934, and grew up in nearby Ickenham. Stears studied at Harrow College of Art and Southall Technical School before working as a draughtsman with the Air Ministry.
He served as a dispatch rider during his National Service, then joined a firm of architects where he was able to utilise his passion for model-making by constructing scale models of building projects for clients.
Stears added his inventions to the first eight James Bond thrillers, won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 1965 for Thunderball, and shared another Academy Award in 1977 for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
He created some of the most famous scenes in the movies. He blew up the villain's Jamaican hideout at the end of Dr. No (1962), and for Goldfinger (1964), he created Agent 007's celebrated Aston Martin DB5, featuring bullet-proof windows, revolving license plates, forward-firing machine guns, a rear oil-slick dispenser and a passenger-side ejector seat.
He also created an avalanche for On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), built flying cars for the musical film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and the Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun (1974). Stears grew disenchanted with the franchise vowing never to do another one. He complained that the "team spirit" had gone. Stears expressed great regret that Kevin McClory couldn't get his rival Bond film Warhead into production as Stears wanted to work on that film.
In 1976, Stears received a call from George Lucas, who had been a great admirer of the Bond films and wanted to know if he was interested in creating mechanical and electrical effects for a film he had written, Star Wars, which Stears accepted.
For Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), he created R2-D2 and C-3PO, Luke Skywalker's Landspeeder, the Jedi Knights' lightsabers, and the Death Star. It was also Stears who, along with John Dykstra, was credited with the original film's climactic aerial dogfight.
In 1978 producer Harry Saltzman hired Stears to direct the "shrunken man" epic film The Micronauts. The troubled project which was in pre-production for many years saw many directors come and go; ultimately the film never made it into production.
John Stears notably one of only a few people to ever win an Academy Award for a James Bond film and one of only eight to win an Academy Award for a Star Wars film.
- 1965 - Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for Thunderball
- 1977 - Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
- 1978 - Saturn Award for Best Special Effects for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
- 1982 - Saturn Award for Best Special Effects (nomination) for Outland
- Call Me Bwana (1963)
- From Russia with Love (1963)
- Goldfinger (1964)
- Court Martial (TV series) (1965)
- Thunderball (1965)
- You Only Live Twice (1967)
- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
- On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
- Toomorrow (1970)
- The Pied Piper (1972)
- Sitting Target (1972)
- Ghost in the Noonday Sun (1973)
- O Lucky Man! (1973)
- The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
- That Lucky Touch (1975)
- Sky Riders (1976)
- Star Wars (1977)
- The Martian Chronicles (1980)
- Hopscotch (1980)
- The Awakening (1980)
- Outland (1981)
- Turkey Shoot (1983)
- Sahara (1983)
- The Bounty (1984)
- F/X: Murder by Illusion (1986)
- Haunted Honeymoon (1986)
- Miracles (1986)
- Navy SEALs (1990)
- Babylon 5: The Gathering (1993)
- Babylon 5 (1994)
- The Mask of Zorro (1998)
Stears died April 28, 1999 in UCLA Medical Center after a stroke. His wife, Brenda, and other family members had wanted the death kept quiet until after services in Pacific Palisades in May and in London. The family announced his death in June of that same year. Stears owned homes in Pacific Palisades and in Beaconsfield, England, where he and his wife raised cattle and show dogs.
- "Obituary: John Stears". The Independent. Retrieved 28 January 2013
- "John Stears; Bond Car For Sale"". Autocar.
- Maronie, Sam (July 1981). "John Stears Talks About Making Move Magic (Without Divulging Too Many Secrets)". Starlog (048): 82.
- "John Stears, 64, Dies; Film-Effects Wizard". New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2013
- "John Stears; Special Effects Genius Behind 007 and R2-D2"". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 January 2013
- anonymous (5 July 1978). "Stears' Helm Debut Due On Micronauts". Variety: 29.
- Autocar DB5 Article, 02 June 2010
- John Stears at the Internet Movie Database
- Obituary, John Stears: Independent, Monday, 19 July 1999
- Obituary, John Stears: New York Times, Sunday, July 4, 1999
- Obituary, John Stears: Los Angeles Times, Monday, July 5, 1999
- John Stears: images of constructing and testing R2D2