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You may never have heard of Ben Burtt, but unless you’re hearing-impaired it’s practically certain you’ve heard him and the results of his work. Ever heard Darth Vader’s breathing? Ben Burtt. Heard R2-D2′s whistles and beeps? Ben Burtt. WALL-E’s voice? Ben Burtt. Ever imitated the hum of a lightsaber? Yep, you guessed it: Ben Burtt. And that’s only scratching the surface.
On July 12, 1948, Ben Burtt was born. He was in his twenties when he was hired by George Lucas for Star Wars, and the rest is history. His resume has to be one of the most impressive of anyone in the entertainment world, including (among many others) all six live-action Star Wars films, all four Indiana Jones films, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, The Dark Crystal, WALL-E, and last year’s Star Trek reboot. Yes, it also includes the notoriously awful Howard the Duck, but all that really means is that the sound design was probably the best part of the film. Burtt is also in large part responsible — and you may or may not consider this a good thing — for popularizing the distinctive “Wilhelm scream,” which he himself imitated in Return of the Jedi as the Imperial officer Han pushes over the railing. Oh, yeah, and he’s won four Oscars and been nominated for eight more.
So please join all of us at GeekDad in wishing Ben Burtt a very happy 62nd birthday! Raise a glass in toast to the man who, more than anyone else, is responsible for the way some of the most memorable movies of the past several decades sounded. You can also read an excellent interview with Burtt from two years ago.