“Apollo 13” Visual Effects Artist Passes Away at 75

Matt Sweeney, the distinguished special effects artist and inventor with an impressive career spanning several decades has died at the age of 75. Sweeney left an undeniable mark on the film industry, garnering an Oscar nomination for his contribution to the visual effects of the movie ‘Apollo 13’. His creativity and expertise extended across numerous films, from the ‘Lethal Weapon’ and ‘Fast & Furious’ franchises to classics like ‘1941’, ‘Goonies’ and ‘The Color Purple’. His innovative designs earned him three Technical Achievement Awards, including for his Automatic Capsule Gun – the “Sweeney Gun” – a Liquid Synthetic Air system, and the Mic Rig.

Remembering Matt Sweeney

Sweeney’s battle with lung cancer sadly ended with his passing on Monday at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. His longtime associate, Dave Burle, confirmed the news. Sweeney’s vast body of work included effects for diverse films such as ‘On Golden Pond’, ‘The Lost Boys’, ‘Big Top Pee-wee’, ‘Arachnophobia’, ‘Natural Born Killers’, and ‘Galaxy Quest’.

Sweeney’s legacy in the film industry

In 1987, Sweeney was recognized with a Technical Achievement Award for inventing the Automatic Capsule Gun, which accurately simulates bullet hits. He subsequently received recognition in 1998 for devising a Liquid Synthetic Air system, capable of creating fog effects with breathable, non-toxic fog. His final award came in 2002 for the Mic Rig, an auto carrier and camera platform instrumental in filming car chase sequences. His expertise and inventive spirit distinguished him among his peers.

Sweeney’s career highlights

Sweeney shared his Oscar nomination for ‘Apollo 13’ alongside Robert Legato, Michael Kanfer, and Leslie Ekker. His Technical Achievement honors were shared with his late wife and business partner, Lucinda “Lulu” Strub, Bob Stoker, and Mic Rodgers.

Born in Studio City in April 1948, Sweeney and Strub launched Matt Sweeney Special Effects Inc. in Van Nuys in 1984. Starting with the manufacturing of capsule guns that produce realistic bullet-hit effects, the company broadened its focus to include an array of special effects products before merging with Roger George Special Effects earlier this year.

Final years

Sweeney later married another fellow special effects artist, Lucinda Foy, about four years ago, who mourns his loss today, alongside their cherished pet, a dog named Xena. Cary Phillips, Director of R&D at ILM and a close working associate of Sweeney, remembered him as a wise and innovate individual open to new ideas.

Wrapping Up

The film industry mourns the loss of Matt Sweeney, a brilliant special effects artist who dedicated his life to pushing the boundaries of cinematic magic. Sweeney’s contribution to the industry through his innovative designs and visual effects artistry have forever altered and shaped the world of cinema. His exuberant passion for his craft and his inventive spirit will not be forgotten.

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