Furst, Anton


Furst, Anton
(1944–November 24, 1991)
   Born in England, the son of a well-to-do London coffee broker descended from Latvian royalty, the future production designer Anthony Francis Furst attended Brighton College and later the Royal College of Art, where he studied sculpture and architecture. During college Furst visited the set of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and knew then what he wanted to do with his life. He told the New York Times, “Film seemed the perfect marriage of all my interests. I was fascinated with technology . . . art . . . the theater, and . . . the idea of making new worlds. Film allows you to construct your own reality, which is wonderful, and film also extends its horizons well beyond what is possible on the stage . . . I see my job as being rather like an illustrator of books . . . Fellini’s remark, that reality is only the extent of your imagination, is my philosophy. ”
   His first film job was on a science fiction film, (never completed), working under TONY MASTERS, who had been the production designer on 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the mid-1970s, as one of the early creators of laser special effects, Furst developed and designed “The Light Fantastic,” a holographic laser show used on tour by The Who. His London-based special effects company, Holoco, worked on such films as Star Wars (1977), Alien (1979), Superman (1978), Moonraker (1986), and Outland (1981). After designing Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves in 1984, Furst got a call from STANLEY KUBRICK, who had liked the film’s look. Kubrick appreciated Furst’s references to Gustave Doré, Samuel Palmer, and other artists, and asked him to design FULL METAL JACKET. Furst later recalled his two years of working with Kubrick as being exhilarating, instructive, and exhausting, “like being suspended in a black hole of high thought and creativity. ” Anton Furst constructed Kubrick’s Vietnam at Pinewood Studios; on an airfield near Cambridge; on the Isle of Dogs; and in some hangars in Enfield.
   In an interview in The Face, Furst recounted some of his experiences on Full Metal Jacket. “Stanley is hard work. But if you’re absolutely up front and honest about the possibility of fucking up and you tell him, then I’ve never met anyone easier. Stanley doesn’t travel; everything comes to him, so there was no question of visiting Vietnam. Therefore when he told me we’d be creating Vietnam in England,my reaction was,‘Great,we can do it better!’ . . . because we could blow the bloody thing up. Go for broke. I don’t think you could fault it in terms of looking like Vietnam . . . We had huge amounts of research material. But everybody was saying, ‘What about the weather? Vietnam is tropical!’ The irony was, every time the sun came out, Stanley refused to shoot. Decided he hated the sun. But if you look at Vietnam reportage film, you hardly see any sunny sky—the place was shot to pieces, dusty. ”
   For his design work on Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), Furst received an Academy Award, which he shared with set decorator Peter Young. Other films on which Furst worked as production designer include Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1981), High Spirits (1988), and Awakenings (1990). Furst also designed New York’s Planet Hollywood, which opened not long before his death.
   On the day of his death, Furst had checked himself into a hospital, having recently been treated for alcohol and drug problems. He inexplicably left the hospital and subsequently leapt off the eight floor of a nearby parking garage. In addition to his problems with addiction, perhaps another contributing factor to his death was the fact that Furst had been struggling with a conflict between art and commercialism during the last year of his life. He had been lured from England to Hollywood by Columbia Pictures and had moved into the high-pressure area of producing films. Director Penny Marshall, with whom Furst had worked on Awakenings, told the New York Times, “Anton was such a great, innocent spirit, and sometimes this place squelches that. ” Furst had lobbied to have his offices adjacent to Marshall’s at Columbia, telling her, “I have to be able to talk so someone who won’t lie to me. ”
   Although his death was officially reported as suicide, members of Furst’s family believe it was accidental, that he was perhaps hallucinating as a result of mental and physical disorientation. He had several major projects in development at the time, including Midknight, which was to star the reclusive pop idol Michael Jackson.
   References
   ■ “Anton Furst, 47, Dies; Designer of ‘Batman,’” New York Times, November 25, 1991, p. A-19;
   ■ “Anton Furst, 47, the Set Designer For ‘Batman’ and ‘Awakenings,’” New York Times, November 27, 1991, p. B-10;
   ■ “Anton Furst,”Variety, December 2, 1991, p. 101;
   ■ “Batman’s Architect,” People, December 9, 1991, p. 55;
   ■ Calhoun, John, “In Memoriam: Anton Furst,” Theatre Crafts, February 1992, p. 18;
   ■ Furst, Anton, interview, The Face, vol. 2 no. 5 February 1989, pp. 50–51;
   ■ Nightingale, Benedict, “Batman Prowls a Gotham Drawn From the Absurd,” New York Times, June 18, 1989, sec. 2, p. 1+;
   ■ Sharkey, Betsy, “Anton Furst: Lost in the Dream Factory,” New York Times, February 16, 1992, sec. 2, p. 1+.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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