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R.I.P. Douglas Trumbull

I was writing my 90th birthday tribute to John Williams yesterday when I saw that Douglas Trumbull passed away on Monday. Here’s the Variety obituary, and some samples of his genius.

I don’t have anything to add about Trumbull except that I adore his work, the likes of which we’ll never see again.

I mean, seriously and literally, because of the digital revolution, we will never see this again— spellbinding VFX work created without modern computers:

I never met Trumbull, but have some friends who crossed paths with him personally and/or professionally, all of whom have great things to say.

I also respect that he was a “maverick,” as the obits pointed out.

I wish I understood half of what he pioneered and mastered! Technically so much of it goes over my head—though, in my defense, I’ve never really sat down and tried.

I wish he had directed more films. Brainstorm is flawed and fascinating, and I never had a chance to see it in a theater, where the different aspect ratios would have had more of an impact. The film was crippled by the tragic death of Natalie Wood, as people know, but has some fascinating ideas—and a phenomenal, early James Horner score.

What can you say? Some people just know what the hell they’re doing. He and John Dykstra came onto Star Trek: The Motion Picture after Bob Abel totally choked.

Trumbull took one look at this:

...and said, that’s awful—throw it out and I’ll give you this:

R.I.P. to a master.

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John Stephen Walsh
John Stephen Walsh

Not that it matters, but several friends of mine have met him over several decades, and Trumbull was incredibly nice to them. He had a complex or something in western MA, sort of a low-key Lucas ranch. He had James Horner's conductor's score for BRAINSTORM in a case in his office. (I'm assuming that's the kind of score from the description I was given, might've been piano, or an instrumental part?). Trumbull's comments in SPACE ODYSSEY, a fine book on the making of 2001, are very informative and touching, esp. about Trumbull at Kubrick's burial.

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