Isidoro Raponi, the mechanical designer behind Hollywood spectacles like E.T. and King Kong, died last Friday, May 27th. He was 76 years old.
According to a report by Deadline, the physical effects expert passed away due to congestive heart failure at a longterm care facility in Los Angeles. His death was confirmed by Disney’s Vice President of Studio Communications Howard Green, who called Raponi “a great guy and an unsung hero” of the film industry.
Raponi was responsible for designing, building, and operating the lovable eponymous alien at the center of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and also worked on box office hits such as Alien, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Gangs of New York, The Hunt for Red October, The Godfather Part: III, The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, Air Force One, Dr. Doolittle, and The Aviator over the course of his decades-long career.
Born June 30th, 1945 in Frosinone, Italy, the designer relocated to Hollywood at the age of 30 to work alongside Carlo Rambaldi on 1976’s King Kong starring Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange. The monster adventure film — which marked Lange’s onscreen debut — was produced by fellow Italian Dino De Laurentiis and won the noncompetitive Special Achievement Academy Award for Visual Effects at the 1977 Oscars. Raponi went on to also contribute to the 1986 sequel King Kong Lives.
Eventually, Raponi retired in 2008 after serving as prop shop foreman on 2007’s Evan Almighty and special effects supervisor on 2008’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, but was coaxed out of retirement just a few years later to work on 2012’s Argo as his final film.
Raponi is survived by his wife of four decades, Nina, and his daughter Tiziana. His death was sadly preceded by his son Daniel’s in 2007.