A recipient of a technical achievement award in 1982 and the John A. Bonner Medal in 2013 at the Academy’s Sci-Tech Awards, visual effects artist Bill Taylor was both a trailblazer in his craft and an inspiration for how effects could be implemented across many genres. A founding co-chair of the Academy’s Science and Technology Council, Taylor, who died Aug. 28, was known as a generous mentor whose work continues to be referenced today. Here are just a few key films we’d like to suggest in memory of his unique gifts and his impact on the industry.
You can find Taylor's wonderful speech at the Academy's 2013 Sci-Tech Awards here.
John Carpenter’s debut film started as a student project at USC, with Taylor working on the optical effects and consulting on other visual effects throughout the film. The resulting project, which was expanded for a theatrical release and became a major cult film, put many of its crew members on the map including Taylor, who also wrote the lyrics for the unforgettable theme song, “Benson Arizona.” Taylor would later pop up in cameos in two Carpenter films, Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and The Fog (1980).
During his decades at Illusion Arts, the company he co-founded with Syd Dutton (and whose material is now part of the Academy Film Archive), Taylor was part of a groundbreaking effects team on many major projects—though the most unusual may have been working on The Final Cut in 2007 of Ridley Scott’s visionary sci-fi masterpiece starring Harrison Ford as a conflicted hunter of androids in futuristic Los Angeles. Using modern technology, Illusion Arts managed to retain the integrity of the original practical effects while fully realizing Scott’s vision as he meant it to be seen by moviegoers.
Taylor’s effects expertise fused perfectly with the comic genius of Mel Brooks on this beloved sci-fi parody, with his matte painting effects used to convince audiences that a Winnebago could indeed fly through space. The work of Taylor and his peers ultimately creates an entire hilarious universe of familiar yet completely goofy variations on sights we’d seen in a galaxy far, far away.
Taylor and the Illusion Arts team worked on the original film in the still-running movie franchise as well as the first two sequels, using visual effects to craft a string of breathless street racing scenes that not only veer between cars but dive inside the vehicles to show the tricks involved in becoming a champion. Coupled with a powerful soundtrack, the elaborate effects set the stage for a series that keeps coming up with new ways to deliver eye-popping action.
Another movie series that gave Taylor and Illusion Arts a massive worldwide audience was this inaugural entry in the popular espionage series about Jason Bourne, an amnesiac assassin who finds himself turning against his covert government employers. The breathless chase scenes required a cutting-edge level of effects expertise, but that also carried over into the international locales that serve as a backdrop for Bourne’s first big-screen adventure.