We owe him the design of spaceships like the V’Ger entity from the first film Star trek (1979) or that ofAliens: the Return (1986). He is also responsible for the design of Blade Runner (1982), as well as the iconic motorcycle of Tron (1982): Syd Mead died in California, Monday, December 30, at the age of 86, from complications from lymphoma. He announced last September that he wanted to retire.
Passionate about science fiction, this industrial designer born in Minnesota in 1933 first worked for large American groups, imagining futuristic designs for the US. Steel, Ford or Philips Electronics. Robots, exoskeletons, vehicles: he creates illustrations of flamboyant futuristic machines that are always anchored in industrial reality, in a style that he himself describes as “Supersonic baroque”.
First cyberpunk movie
After a collaboration with Hollywood in 1979 for Star trek, it is Sentinel, the first catalog of his works, which allows Syd Mead to establish itself definitively in the cinema industry.
Sentinel catches the eye of Ridley Scott, while preparing Blade Runner. In the book Future black: The Making of Blade Runner, he explains that he was very impressed by his representation of futuristic vehicles.
The director entrusts Mead with the supervision of the entire design of the film, from his battered police cars to the threatening architectures of this anticipating Los Angeles, with the instruction to permeate his triumphant futurism with grimy and agonizing ink. French magazine publications Screaming metal. Mead brings to life for the first time on the big screen a still young science fiction movement, cyberpunk.
In the process, and in a more naive style, he will also design all the vehicles of the virtual world of Tron from Disney. He will then design two movie ships, the USS Sulacoaliens and the Leonov's 2010, the continuation of 2001, the Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke. Logic, for this fervent admirer of Clarke, whose ability he anchors his futuristic stories in a certain scientific reality.
His influence is not limited to the films he has worked on, however. Joe Johnston, artist on the original trilogy Star Wars, don't hide that the huge AT-AT quadruped tanks of theEmpire strikes back are directly inspired by designs made by Syd Mead for the steelmaker US Steel.
To buckle the buckle
If, in the 1990s, we find Syd Mead on less capital works, such as the obscure Solar Crisis (a clone of Mad Max with Charlton Heston), Timecop with Jean-Claude Vandamme or on the video game Wing Commander: Prophecy, the 2000s will put his talent more in the spotlight: in addition to the mask machine Mission: Impossible III, he worked on science fiction movies Mission to Mars, Tomorrowland as well as'Elysium.
Finally, his expertise was sought on the film Blade Runner 2049, especially on the sequence taking place in the ruins of Las Vegas, thus completing an open loop forty years earlier.
Syd Mead was to receive a prize in February 2020 from the Art Directors Guild, a company that brings together artistic directors and interior designers from the American film industry.