Isidoro Raponi, whose skills brought E.T., King Kong and more to life for millions of moviegoers, has died. He was 76 and died May 27 of congestive heart failure at a Los Angeles rehabilitation center, according to veteran Disney communications executive Howard Green, who described Raponi as “a great guy and an unsung hero”
Raponi’s specialty was as a mechanical effects expert. The art form, sometimes called practical or physical effects, includes the use of mechanized props, scenery, scale models and pyrotechnics.
His biggest triumph in the sector was helping to design, build and operate E.T. for the 1982 Steven Spielberg film E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. His résumé includes work on such other big films as King Kong, Alien, Close Encounters of the Third Kind., Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption.
A native of Italy, Raponi moved to Los Angeles in 1975 to work on producer Dino De Laurentiis’ 1976 remake of King Kong, which received a Special Achievement Award at the Oscars.
He retired in 2008 but was lured back for one last assignment on Ben Affleck’s 2012 film, Argo — which went on to win the Best Oscar.
Survivors include his wife of 40 years, Nina; and his daughter, Tiziana. His son, Daniel, died in 2007.