On Saturday night myself and a couple of hundred other luck people went to BFI Southbank to take part in a BAFTA 90th birthday tribute to Ray Harryhausen.
For anyone who makes films, loves films or merely went to the movies occasionally as a child, the work of Ray Harryhausen (Clash of the Titans, Jason & the Argonauts etc. etc.) has probably left an indelible mark. I went expecting a simple retrospective of Ray’s work, but Saturday night was so much more.
The evening was hosted by the hilarious John Landis (Director of The Blues Brothers & American Werewolf in London) and attended by a plethora of genuine and genuinely humbled Harryhausen fans including Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, Nick Park, David Sproxton & Peter Lord (Aardman).
The evening not only gave a glimpse into the celluloid magic of the man himself, but also into the huge impact that his body of work has had on most of Hollywood’s VFX & Directing royalty, indeed in many cases Harryhausen is cited as ‘the reason’ they chose a career in movies.
On stage there were tributes from the likes of Randy Cook (VFX - The Thing, Ghostbusters, Lord of the Rings), Dennis Muren, Phil Tippet and Ken Ralston, Sir Christopher Frayling and Special Effects guru Rick Baker... and wonderfully Caroline Munro (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad) and John Cairney and Gary Raymond (two of the original Argonauts).
On screen there were also heartfelt tributes to Ray recorded specifically for the event from George Lucas, Frank Darabont, Guillermo Del Toro, John Lasseter (Pixar), Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton and James Cameron.
But for me, the two highlights of the evening were an incredibly moving tribute from Ray’s lifelong friend, Screenwriter Ray Bradbury and then Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, who not only presented Ray with a special BAFTA award, but also gave everyone an exclusive screening of some of his own very early films. As it turns out, Jackson was not only hugely inspired by Harryhausen’s work, but as a boy, he was totally obsessed with replicating many of his classic scenes. We witnessed the 12 year old Jackson fighting of a cyclops with a spear and defeating an onslaught of invisible skeletons... “I filmed my part, but was never quite sure how to do the skeletons” said Jackson.