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John M. Dwyer

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John Dwyer
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John M. Dwyer

Birth name: John M. Dwyer
Gender: Male
Date of birth: 25 August 1926
Place of birth: Detroit, Michigan, USA
Awards for Trek: 1 Emmy Award nomination
Roles: Set Decorator

John M. Dwyer (born 25 August 1926; age 88) is an Emmy Award-winning, Academy Award-nominated set decorator who has worked on Star Trek: The Original Series, the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and six Star Trek films.

Dwyer started working under the direct auspices of Art Director/Production Designer Walter "Matt" Jefferies, on the Original Series during its second season, beginning with the popular episode "The Trouble with Tribbles". Jefferies' younger brother, Set Designer John Jefferies, worked closely with Dwyer and his team. He remained with the series until its cancellation in 1969. Jefferies, who had to contend with ever tightening budgets, has always been very appreciative of Dwyer, already emphatically stating so in 1968, "In the early stages John Dwyer, set decorator, comes in and looks at the initial drawings. Then he and I sit down and have a talk about what I have in mind. He proceeds to put his talents to work finding the proper dressing along the lines of what we've discussed. I depend on this man very heavily, not only to carry out my ideas, but to come up with an endless fountain of his own ideas. And he does. For the most part, Stage 9 [which houses almost all the standing sets for the Enterprise] is a very static set, and John can turn that over to his assistant, Mike May. Then John has the opportunity to of getting off the lot and searching for unusual things -- something particular he has in mind, or some idea of mine. But John has the opportunity to get out where I don't. So he's my floating eyes and sticky fingers...that's where all the "freebies" come in too. He has a wonderful knack of finding these things...an eagerness and adventuresome sort of spirit that that goes with digging some of these things out." (Inside Star Trek, issue 4, p. 3) His work on the series earned him an Emmy Award nomination in 1969.

Dwyer reciprocally had stated this in 2002, "The art director is like the architect in your home or your office or anything else. He supplies all of the hard things that you see. Then I would come in and do carpeting, drapery treatments, all the furniture, all the wall designs, decorations, and pretty much put the thing together, and you'd try and stay a little bit on the cutting edge. I'm not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination, but I keep in touch with materials, you know, that are going around. For example, on the Original Series, we were the first ones to use refractive Mylar, because it had just come out, and metallic Mylar because they had just come out, and I went crazy with the stuff. In those days nobody cared what you put on the set, so long as there was something that looked right. I'd take a piece of Masonite and cover it with some adhesive Mylar, put a two-by-four on the backside of it and hang it on a wall."

In the same interview, Dwyer described a typical assignment, when he was tasked to dress the set of laboratory Spock was kept in, in the third season episode "Spock's Brain",

"It was late in the morning. It was probably 11:30 and Matt Jefferies, the production designer of the Original Series, came up and said, "John, we need an extra eight-foot wall in there." Well, you know, you don't have extra stuff, because we had no budget at all, so we had to dream up an extra space wall. It wouldn't have been so bad if it had been a living quarter, but it was really a lab. So, it had to be technical looking. And so I said, "You have it after lunch.", so, it was not a lot of time. So I says, "Good, when you go over, when you're building the wall, cut me four four-by-four pieces of quarter-inch Masonite and paint them black. I'll take care of the rest." So, I went over and got out my little stash of Styrofoam products and had them sprayed while I was going down. I gave my lead man [note: Mike May] a couple of bucks and I told him to go down to the commissary and get two sleeves, different sizes, of takeout cup lids, you know, the plastic lids that fits on takeout, the cup when you go with your coffee. So he came back, we flipped them all over, we painted three different colors, a bunch of them, three different colors, then glued them onto these black panels, that I had that made up along with a couple of shapes. That was it, the wall was done. And when they pan past it, because nobody's gonna hang on it, but if you pan by it, they're colored, they're up there on the wall and they're shining, because they're plastic."
In a more reflective mood, Dwyer added, "In the Original Series we had to be really inventive, because we were dealing with stuff that nobody knew anything about. There was no space shows, and we didn't have any money, so you had to scrounge; In effect scrounge everything that you got." (TOS Season 2 DVD-special feature, "Designing the Final Frontier")

Dwyer returned to the Star Trek franchise nearly two decades later when he was brought aboard to decorate the sets for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in 1986. The following year, he was hired as set decorator on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Dwyer left TNG after the first season, however, and Jim Mees took over his position. The reasons for Dwyer to leave, were partly expedited by Gene Roddenberry's uninitiated attorney and business partner Leonard Maizlish, who "destructively" meddled with the creative decision making for the new series. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, p. 433)

Although he left TNG, Dwyer continued to contribute to the franchise. He decorated the sets for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and later did the same for Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, and Star Trek: Insurrection. He most recently worked on Star Trek Nemesis with art director Donald B. Woodruff, with whom he worked before on the 1987 film Jaws: The Revenge, directed by "The Corbomite Maneuver" director Joseph Sargent. During the shooting of Nemesis, Dwyer quit working on the film after having conflicts with the director, Stuart Baird. [1]

In 1996, Dwyer visited the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine sound stages to see the recreated USS Enterprise sets for "Trials and Tribble-ations". (David Gerrold's introduction, "Trials and Tribble-ations" novelization) Successor Laura Richarz had actually approached Dwyer during production of "Trials and Tribble-ations" regarding recreating set decorations. Although the production staff did not recreate Mr Lurry's office, Dwyer recalled telling Richarz "to get a model of the Enterprise and hang it outside Lurry's window, because that's how we did it [note: originally]." (The Magic of Tribbles: The Making of Trials and Tribble-ations)

Years later, on 17 January 2008, Dwyer played one-time host on the Original Series bridge set recreation, while it was displayed at the opening of Star Trek The Exhibition tour at the Long Beach, California venue. [2]

Career outside Star Trek Edit

  • Early career

Dwyer began his set decoration career on the hit ABC series McHale's Navy. This was followed by the 1967 made-for-television movie Valley of Mystery, which featured Leonard Nimoy. He would begin working on Nimoy's series, Star Trek, that same year.

After Star Trek, Dwyer worked on such television shows as Night Gallery, Kojak, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker. He also worked on his first film, the Academy Award-winning 1975 blockbuster hit Jaws. Afterward, he decorated sets for the films Midway (1976, starring Edward Laurence Albert and featuring Phillip Richard Allen, Glenn Corbett, James Ingersoll, Robert Ito, Clyde Kusatsu, Monte Markham, and John Schuck), Two-Minute Warning (1976, featuring Allan Miller, Brock Peters, and Garry Walberg), Which Way Is Up? (1977, featuring Marc Alaimo and Morgan Woodward, with cinematography by John A. Alonzo), and Gray Lady Down (1978, starring Ronny Cox, Rosemary Forsyth, and Stephen McHattie and featuring David Clennon and Robert Ito).

  • Award-nominated works

Dwyer earned his first Emmy Award nomination in Outstanding Art Direction for his work on the 1978 NBC mini-series Centennial. Among the performers who worked on this program are Michael Ansara, Ed Bakey, Henry Darrow, Cliff DeYoung, Robert DoQui, Robert Easton, Alex Henteloff, Brian Keith, Sally Kellerman, Stephen McHattie, Nick Ramus, Clive Revill, Eric Server, James Sloyan, Morgan Woodward and Anthony Zerbe. Dwyer received his second Emmy nomination – which he won – for the 1981 mini-series The Gangster Chronicles, starring Jonathan Banks, Michael Ensign, Louis Giambalvo, Michael Nouri, and Kenneth Tigar.

Dwyer's next project was the acclaimed 1980 Loretta Lynn biographical drama Coal Miner's Daughter, which earned Dwyer his first and only Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (shared with production designer John W. Corso).

  • Later career

Subsequent films featuring Dwyer's decorating work (besides those in the Trek franchise) include John Carpenter's The Thing (1982, featuring David Clennon and Joel Polis), Paramount Pictures' Beverly Hills Cop (1984, starring Jonathan Banks, Steven Berkoff, and Ronny Cox), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, featuring Earl Boen, Jenette Goldstein, Nikki Cox, Castulo Guerra, Terrence Evans and Abdul Salaam El Razzac), Alien: Resurrection (1997, starring Raymond Cruz, Brad Dourif, Leland Orser, and Ron Perlman, with art direction by Andrew Neskoromny and costume design by Bob Ringwood), and Hollow Man (2000, featuring J. Patrick McCormack and Jimmie F. Skaggs). In addition, he worked with veteran Star Trek production designer Herman Zimmerman on the Paramount films Black Rain (1989, featuring Tim Kelleher, Richard Riehle, and Stephen Root) and All I Want for Christmas (1991, featuring Andrea Martin). The latter picture featured art direction by DS9 art director Randy McIlvain.

Among the television programs on which Dwyer worked later in his career included Magnum, P.I., MacGyver, and the popular 1983 science fiction mini-series V.

Emmy Award Nomination Edit

  • 1969 Emmy Award nomination for TOS Season 3 in the category Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction and Scenic Design, shared with Art Director Walter M. Jefferies.

Star Trek credits Edit

Star Trek interviews Edit

External links Edit

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