Robert Earl Wise (September 10, 1914 – September 14, 2005) was an American film director, producer and editor. He twice won Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture, West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965). He was also nominated for Best Film Editing for Citizen Kane (1941) and Best Picture for The Sand Pebbles (1966). Among his other films are The Body Snatcher, Born to Kill, The Set-Up, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Run Silent Run Deep, I Want to Live!, The Haunting, The Andromeda Strain, The Hindenberg, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Wise was born in Winchester, Indiana, the son of Olive R. and Earl W. Wise, a meat packer. He attended Connersville High School in Indiana, and its auditorium, the Robert E. Wise Center for Performing Arts, is named in his honor. Wise began his movie career at RKO as a sound and music editor, but he soon grew to being nominated for the Academy Award for Film Editing for Citizen Kane in 1941: Wise was that film’s last living crew member.
While working as a film editor, Wise was called on to shoot additional scenes for Orson Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). He got his first credited directing job in 1944 by replacing the original director on the stylish Val Lewton produced horror film The Curse of the Cat People, featuring Simone Simon. Lewton promoted Wise to his superiors at RKO, beginning a collaboration which would produce the notable horror film The Body Snatcher starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, a film which in its stylization and atmosphere deliberately evoked the groundbreaking horror films of the 1930s, while presenting a psychological horror film more in tune with the uncertainty of the 1940s.
In 1947, Wise directed the noir classic Born to Kill and two years later directed the boxing movie The Set-Up, where his direction of the real-time setting got him noticed. Wise’s use and mention of time in this film would find echos in later noir films such as Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing and Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.
In the 1950s, Wise proved adept in several genres, from the science fiction of The Day the Earth Stood Still to the melodramatic So Big, to the 1954 boardroom drama Executive Suite, to the epic Helen of Troy based on Homer, to Susan Hayward’s Oscar winner in I Want to Live!, for which he was nominated for Best Director..
The Sound of Music was an interim film for Wise, produced to mollify the studio while he developed the difficult film The Sand Pebbles, starring Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough.
In the 1970s, he directed such films as The Andromeda Strain, The Hindenberg the horror film Audrey Rose, and the first Star Trek film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In 1989, he directed Rooftops, his last theatrical feature film.
Wise served as the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1984 through 1987. He also sat on the Board of Trustees of the American Film Institute and chaired its Center for Advanced Film Studies.
He was named chairman of the Directors Guild of America’s special projects committee in 1980, organizing its fiftieth anniversary celebration in New York in 1986. He was a leading member of the National Council of the Arts and Sciences, the Department of Film at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital.
In his later years, Wise continued to be active in productions of DVD versions of his films, including making public appearances promoting those films. In March 1987, Wise accepted the Academy Award for Best Actor, on behalf of his absent friend, Paul Newman, who won for his performance in The Color of Money. In 1992, Wise was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
After suffering a heart attack at home, Wise was rushed to UCLA Medical Center. He died on September 14, 2005, four days after his 91st birthday.
After studying industrial design at California State University Dykstra landed a job working with Douglas Trumbull on Silent Running (1972) filming model effects.
When George Lucas was recruiting people for the special effects work on Star Wars, he approached Trumbull (who was working on Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind), who pointed him towards Dykstra. Dykstra led the development at Industrial Light & Magic of the Dykstraflex motion-controlled camera, which was responsible for many of the film’s groundbreaking effects. The system was made possible by the availability of off-the-shelf integrated-circuit RAM at relatively low cost and second-hand Vision Vision cameras.
However, there was tension between Dykstra and Lucas, who later complained that too much of the special effects budget was spent on developing the camera systems and that the effects team did not deliver all the shots that he had wanted. These tensions would reportedly culminate with Dykstra’s dismissal from ILM following Lucas’ return from principal photography in Tunisia. Regardless, following the release of Star Wars, Dykstra secured his status in the industry with Academy Awards for best special effects and special technical achievement, and having completed a number of scenes which appeared in the final edit.
Dykstra had a Production credit for the television series Battlestar Galactica (1978), and contributed to the series’ effects. Around the same time, Dykstra was a target of Lucas’ legal ire. His fledgling visual effects house, Apogee, Inc., consisted of several ILM employees who did not want to relocate to San Francisco from Van Nuys, and used whatever equipment Lucas had left behind. Lucas attempted to get an injunction against Apogee to prevent the company from using what he considered to be his equipment to work on a project that was in direct competition to the Star Wars films. Several members of Apogee, including Richard Edlund and Dennis Muren, would return to ILM.
Dykstra also worked on the effects for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), with some of his effects being recycled in subsequent films. Dykstra’s next major achievement was the effects work on the Clint Eastwood movie, Firefox (1982). Here, he took on the same challenge that Lucas had set with The Empire Strikes Back of combining miniature effects with actual backgrounds and matte work on white backgrounds using reverse bluescreen. The film secured further awards but was only a modest box office hit.
Dykstra was worked on the effects crew for Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce (1985), and Invaders from Mars (1986) before becoming supervisor for the special effects on My Stepmother is an Alien (1988), Batman Forever (1995), and Batman & Robin (1997). He was also Senior Visual Effects Supervisor for Stuart Little (1999). Dykstra was Visual Effects Designer on the first two Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man films, and was rewarded with an Oscar for Best Visual Effects for his efforts on Spider-Man 2 (2004).
He also acted as Visual Effects Designer on Hancock (2008), Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009) and X-Men: First Class (2011).
Check out this excellent article HERE from 1977, written by Dykstra for American Cinematographer.