Steve Wright was an FX industry veteran and lent his skills in animatronics, model making and engineering to some of the largest film franchises we know, including the Harry Potter films, the 90’s iteration of The Mummy, the Star Wars prequels and most recently, the entire catalogue of Disney era Star Wars films.
On March 20th, 2019, he took his own life. As someone who has had to deal with the subject of mental illness closely in the past (my mother took her own life when I was but 3, and a close friend did the same when we were 18 years old), I felt compelled to write this short piece and share Steve’s story.
Depression affects over 300 million people worldwide. People. Not men. Not women. Just, people. No disease is prejudiced. And neither is mental illness. It doesn’t differentiate between gender and it has no bias. It just corrupts the mind. Some survive. Some don’t. Approximately 1 million of the aforementioned 300 million, succumb. The figures are readily available online so I needn’t quote them here, so instead, let’s focus our attention on the positive effect Steve had on others.
Unfortunately I never got to meet Steve, but many people I know and care about, did. And his passing has affected them deeply. Such was the impression he left on them. The outpouring of love seen across social media for Steve has been unprecedented and his Memory Book on his website (listed at the end of this piece) is testament to that.
I asked some of Steve’s friends and colleagues to provide some words about him. This is what they had to say about him:
Patrick Comerford (CFX Puppeteer):
“We are all still trying to process what has happened to Steve, who was a much loved member of the Star Wars CFX family and had friends and admirers throughout the wider industry. An immensely skilled, creative mechanic who time and time again solved problems quickly and without fuss, he was the ultimate team player – ever supportive and the guy you wanted by your side when the pressure was on. His IMDB page speaks for itself and only paints part of the picture. He was one of the most universally liked people in our department and the loss to the industry and to his friends is deeply felt. It is no coincidence that over £33,000 has been raised to help his family, for whom we are all devastated. With the recent passing of one of our most admired suit performers Derek Campbell a few weeks ago, these are sad times.”
Emma Brassfield (Fabricator):
“Steve was such a lovely, funny, dependable guy. He was the person you’d ask if you were stuck with a problem. The one who’d do all he could to help you. He was one of the people you’d want in your corner. I’m so sorry you lost your battle with this horrible illness Steve. You have left a hole in the industry. I hope you are at peace now.”
Maria Cork (Hair Department Supervisor):
*“Steve was the kindest, gentlest human you could want to meet and the best person to have on your team when film industry deadlines were (as is often the case) tough. I can’t express how much we’ll all miss him and the circumstances make this even harder.”
Something that struck me from some of the commentators on social media was how unaware they were that he was unhappy. It just goes to show that we must never assume. Steve was fighting a war inside his own mind that people were unaware of, despite bringing so much joy to countless numbers across the world through his incredible work in film.
My thoughts are with Steve and his family and friends at this immensely difficult time.
Steve is survived by his wife and 2 children. He was 48 years old.
If you wish to contribute to his GoFundMe, please visit here.
To learn more about mental illness and support the charity Mind, please visit here.
And if you’d like to visit Steve’s personal site to view his filmography, photos of him at work, his memory book etc., it can be found here.
*excerpted from Maria Cork’s Facebook tribute to Steve Wright.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. Mechanising Patrick Comerford’s character, Grummgar.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. The team’s last night in Abu Dhabi.
Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. Working alongside Frank Oz on the Yoda puppet. Steve is in shadow under the rig.
Team photo outside Pinewood Studios.