New LA Academy Museum to feature iconic movie props and costumes

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Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

What would the “Lord of the Rings” be if the One Ring had never been made in the fires of Mount Doom? How would Tom Hanks have done on the isolated island of “Castaway” without his still silent but loyal volleyball companion, Wilson?

A single object can direct the entire narrative arc of a movie – and, depending on where it ends after filming, its folklore can extend far beyond the big screen.

Famous pieces of movie history can sell for millions of dollars, like Robby the robot from 1956’s “Forbidden Planet”, which grossed nearly $ 5.4 million in 2017, or Marilyn’s white halter dress. Monroe from “The Seven Year Itch”, which sold for $ 4.6 million. in 2011. Others, however, ended up in less glamorous places – the blue gingham check dress worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz” was recently found hidden in a trash bag, while Bruce the shark from “Jaws” has spent many years in a Californian landfill.

But now Bruce – who has been rescued and restored – is one of a host of iconic movie props and costumes on display at LA’s new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which opens in September after years of delay.

Here are eight of the museum’s most prized objects, chosen with the help of its collections curator, Nathalie Morris.

“Some (articles) are legendary in the history of cinema,” she said in a video interview. “And a few other pieces are maybe a little more unusual, but (they) illustrate interesting aspects of cinematic technique and technology.”

Alien Head, “Alien”

A propeller head designed and created by HR Giger for “Alien” (1979). Credit: Joshua White / JWPictures / Academy Museum Foundation

When director Ridley Scott set out to create the xenomorph villain in “Alien,” a slimy black endoparasitoid who likes dramatic entries, he didn’t want Sigourney Weaver’s nemesis to look “like a man in a suit,” said Morris.

So Scott brought in Swiss “biomechanical” artist HR Giger and special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi to create one of the scariest aliens on the big screen. “(Scott) really wanted something nightmarish, primordial and visceral, and HR Giger has pieces that really got the job done,” Morris added.

There were several different versions of the alien head, including several mechanized ones used for close-ups (like the dripping jaws that revealed a monstrous inner jaw similar to a Pez dispenser). But it’s the one worn by 6-foot-10 artist and actor Bolaji Badejo in the original film that will be on display at the Academy Museum this fall.

Slippers Ruby, “The Wizard of Oz”

A pair of ruby ​​slippers from "The Wizard of Oz."

A pair of ruby ​​slippers from “The Wizard of Oz”. Credit: Joshua White / JWPictures / Academy Museum Foundation

No one knows how many pairs of ruby ​​slippers were worn by Judy Garland while filming the classic 1939 fantasy film “The Wizard of Oz”. But those we know have had a hell of a ride. One pair was auctioned off for $ 666,000 in 2000 and another was recovered by the FBI in 2018 after being stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Minnesota 13 years earlier.

“What we do know is that there are four pairs that definitely survived,” Morris said. “But there were at least seven pairs made – ours is labeled number seven.”

The magic of the clattering of the heels of glittery, low-heeled shoes has captured children’s imaginations for generations.

“It’s such a beloved movie, and it’s a really big part of American folklore and history,” Morris said. “Ruby slippers gather all that magic in one item.”

Bruce the Shark, “Jaws”

"Bruce the shark" installation at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles.

Installation “Bruce the Shark” at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. Credit: Todd Wawrychuk / Academy Museum Foundation

Bruce the Shark, the formidable great white of “Jaws,” remains “one of the greatest villains of all time,” Morris said.

The version found at the Academy Museum is one of four produced for the film, all from a single cast. The first three didn’t survive the shoot, but this Bruce did – perhaps because he never made an on-screen appearance. Instead, it was exhibited at Universal Studios as a tourist attraction before ending up in a junkyard.

After the model was donated to its collection in 2016, the Academy Museum undertook “a great restoration project” to restore it to its former glory, Morris said, adding: “It had to be stripped and repainted and its teeth were replaced. “

At 25 feet in length, it is the largest piece of memorabilia in the museum’s collection. “You don’t necessarily think of him as an object,” Morris said. “You think of him as a character.”

Frida Kahlo costume, “Frida”

A costume worn by Salma Hayek in the 2002s "Frida."

A costume worn by Salma Hayek in “Frida” from 2002. Credit: Joshua White / JWPictures / Academy Museum Foundation

Salma Hayek was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in the 2002 biopic “Frida”, as was costume designer Julie Weiss.

Her reimagining of the painter’s green dress, with a red rebozo shawl, is one of the many costumes on display at the Academy Museum. The garment was based on the one worn in a wedding portrait Kahlo painted of her and artist Diego Rivera, whom she married more than once in her life.

Director Julie Taymor “wanted to infuse Frida Kahlo’s paintings into the film’s narrative structure,” Morris said, adding that the green dress “had become such an important part of her look.”

C-3PO and R2-D2, “Star Wars”

C-3PO and R2-D2 from the original "Star wars" trilogy.

C-3PO and R2-D2 from the original “Star Wars” trilogy. Credit: FilmPublicityArchive / United Archives / Getty Images

The beloved droid duo C-3PO and R2-D2 have entertained “Star Wars” fans with their pithy jokes since the franchise began in 1977. In the original and previous trilogies, R2-D2 has been played by British actor Kenny Baker in a droid costume. But a mechanized version was also used, Morris said,

“The head might spin. And he (R2-D2) might emote, as far as a droid can emote,” she said, adding that the Academy’s museum model is on loan from the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which will open in 2023..

Meanwhile, actor Anthony Daniels’ original gold C-3PO costume in “A New Hope” has gotten extremely hot in the desert locations used for the fictional planet Tatooine, according to Morris.

“He was obviously very uncomfortable in the desert,” she said. “He had to keep reminding people that he was actually an actor inside that costume, and that he needed attention between tapes. And because the mouth hole was so small, he was very difficult for him to speak clearly… There were a lot of adjustments made afterwards to make him more comfortable. ”

The C-3PO costume on display at the Academy Museum is an updated version that first appeared in “The Empire Strikes Back” from the 1980s.

Luge Rosebud, “Citizen Kane”

A balsa sled made for "Citizen Kane," photographed in 1982.

A balsa sled made for “Citizen Kane”, photographed in 1982. Credit: Denver Post / Getty Images

The 1941 drama “Citizen Kane”, starring and directed by Orson Welles, is often hailed as the pinnacle of cinema. And the Rosebud sleigh, a symbol of the protagonist’s loss of innocence, is “a holy grail in movie history,” Morris said. “It is the object that drives the mystery and the intrigue.”

Four versions of the sled were made: one in pine wood that appears early on (and was subsequently auctioned off for $ 233,500) and three copies in balsa wood for the film’s fiery conclusion.

“Orson Welles didn’t like the first take, but he loved the second,” Morris explained. “So the third sled that was made survived.”

It ended up in the office of none other than Steven Spielberg, who paid it $ 60,500 at a 1982 auction, and now loaned it to the Academy Museum. Shortly after the auction, the Washington Post reported that the Rosebud sled had passed through several hands prior to the sale, having nearly encountered its disappearance in a garbage pile outside the studio’s props vault. movies.

Grace Kelly Life Mask, Unknown

Grace Kelly Life Mask.  Museum of the Academy of Cinema.

Grace Kelly Life Mask. Museum of the Academy of Cinema. Credit: Joshua White / JWPictures / Academy Museum Foundation

Grace Kelly has had a brief but iconic Hollywood career, including leading roles in Alfred Hitchcock classics like “Rear Window” and “Dial M for Murder”. A “life mask” of the actress, used to test hair and makeup, is in the Academy’s museum collection, although it is not known which film the mask is from.

“We haven’t really been able to attribute it to a movie,” Morris said. “I thought it was an interesting piece, because it illustrates the work of the makeup artist and the actor – and their interaction… It’s almost like a beautiful sculpture.”

The masks of life can be cast over and over again, which means the collector market is inundated with them. (On Etsy, allegedly authentic casts of Kelly – as well as celebrities like Jack Nicholson and David Bowie – can be purchased for under $ 150). Casts of the lives of Clark Gable, Mel Brooks and Don Cheadle are among those on display at the Academy Museum.

Dinosaur Input Device (DID), “Jurassic Park”

Tyrannosaurus Rex Dinosaur Input Device (DID) from "jurassic park" (1993).

Tyrannosaurus Rex Dinosaur Input Device (DID) from “Jurassic Park” (1993). Credit: Joshua White / JWPictures / Academy Museum Foundation

When Spielberg first envisioned 1993’s “Jurassic Park”, he wanted a full cast of giant animatronic dinosaurs. But the cost would have been exorbitant, so the director opted for a mixture of animatronics and stop-motion technology instead. However, creating the value of credible dinosaur herds was still a challenge.

Step into the Dinosaur Input Device, or Digital Input Device (DID), cinematic technology designed to create lifelike dinosaurs on a budget. The first was a Tyrannosaurus Rex metal frame with sensors, which stop-motion animators could position as needed. The data from the DID was then fed into graphics software that the animators used to create the shape, features, and textures of the creature’s skin. It was such a success that another T. Rex and two velociraptors followed.

“It’s a very important part of film technology,” Morris said. “It represents a bridge between traditional stop-motion animation and digital effects.”


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