Joe Viskocil, ‘Star Wars’ Visual Effects Legend, Dead At 63

Joe Viskocil liked blowing stuff up for movies, and he did it well. So well, in fact, that Joe Viskocil actually received awards from detonating miniatures for film. Looking at Joe’s Facebook page, his picture section isn’t filled with shots of famous friends or actors or the like, Joe Viskocil’s pictures are of fire. And explosions. Joe was a master pyro.

Viskocil left us on Monday. Joe died from complications of liver and kidney failure according to Derek Maki of Coolwater Productions, says the Hollywood Reporter.

Joe Viskocil attached his talent to some of the biggest films in cinematic history, and his contributions will live on forever.

Working on the original Star Wars (1977), Joe Viskocil helped George Lucas and John Dykstra with their newly created Industrial Light and Magic to blow up a little thing called the Death Star. Viskocil returned for the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back (1980), lending his pyrotechnic abilities to destroy all manner of ships and buildings — Imperial and Rebel alike.

James Cameron pulled Joe Viskocil in from Fantasy II Film Effects to do the pyrotechnics and fire effects on a little movie he was doing called the The Terminator (1984).

The nuclear explosion in The Return of the Living Dead (1985) is all Viskocil, and Joe went on from there to work on films right up to this year. Many, many of the films that Joe Viskocil worked on our genuine classics, and many more of them are cult classics.

Some more of the films Joe Viskocil worked on? Here’s just a sample.

Ghostbusters (1984), Critters (1986), House (1986), The Blob (1988), Remote Control (1988), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), Batman Returns (1992), Matinee (1993), True Lies (1994), The Abyss (1989), Interview with the Vampire (1994), Barton Fink (1991), Johnny Mnemonic (1995), Apollo 13 (1995), Volcano (1997), Godzilla (1998), Armageddon (1998), Scream 3 (2000), Reindeer Games (2000), Independence Day (1996), Alien: Resurrection (1997), Battlefield Earth (2000), Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), Panic Room (2002), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008), and many, many others. All totaled, according to the Internet Movie Database, Joe Viskocil had over 80 film credits between 1974 and 2014.

Joe Viskocil received an Academy Award with Volker Engel, Douglas Smith, and Clay Pinney for their work on Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day, where Viskocil oversaw the destruction of The White House when an immense spacecraft zapped it from above.

The last film Joe Viskocil worked on was The Prey, about U.S. soldiers in the Middle East who get trapped in a cave inhabited by a deadly monster. A small film starring Danny Trejo and Nick Chinlund, The Prey (featuring explosions by Joe Viskocil) will be released in October.

[Images via Media & Mayhem & Newlights Press