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Douglas Trumbull, effects wizard behind ‘2001’, ‘Blade Runner’, and more, dead at 79

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Trumbull in 1977, working on ‘Close Encounters’ — Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Douglas Trumbull, a groundbreaking visual effects artist who left his mark on cinema history thanks to his pioneering work on classics like 2001: A Space OdysseyBlade Runner, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, died Monday evening.

On Facebook, his daughter Amy noted Trumbull’s passing at 79 after “a major two year battle with cancer, a brain tumor and a stroke.”

Trumbull also worked on 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, earning an Oscar nomination, and directed the sci-fi films Brainstorm and 1973’s Silent RunningGeorge Lucas sought to tap Trumbull to head his brand-new production house, Industrial Light and Magic, for the original Star Wars. But Trumbull was already working on Steven Spielberg‘s Close Encounters and so he recommended his assistant, John Dykstra, who went on to win his first Academy Awards for the film as a founding member of ILM.

Considered one of the fathers of modern visual effects — even in this day of computer-driven movie magic — Trumbull was also Oscar nominated for 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner. He also held many patents in the field, and in 1983 he was awarded an Academy Scientific and Engineering Award for various camera technologies he helped develop. 

Trumbull was honored for his technological contributions with the Academy’s Gordon E. Sawyer Award in 2012.

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