Eddie Aiona, Prop Master for Clint Eastwood, Dies at 83
By Mike Barnes
Eddie Aiona, a property master on more than 20 Clint Eastwood films — from Magnum Force to The Bridges of Madison County — during a stretch of more than two decades, has died. He was 83.
Aiona, who worked on three Oscar winners for best picture, died March 31 of lung cancer at Providence Tarzana Medical Center, his friend, Ric Gentry, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Aiona also worked for such esteemed directors as Martin Scorsese on Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974); for Sydney Pollack on The Electric Horseman (1979) and Absence of Malice (1981); for Paul Schrader on Hardcore (1979); for Robert Redford on Oscar best picture winner Ordinary People (1980); for Barry Levinson on the best picture winner Rain Man (1988); and for John Carpenter on Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992).
Aiona was among the cadre of behind-the-scenes players whom Eastwood employed on picture after picture for years. To many, he was the prototypical creative member of Eastwood’s streamlined, fast-moving, hyper-efficient, tight-knit Malpaso Productions team.
“Eddie was a great guy, so talented and devoted to his craft," Eastwood said in a statement. "He made the job look effortless."
In between Magnum Force (1973) and his final credit, The Bridges of Madison County (1995), Aiona teamed with the actor-director-producer on Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), The Enforcer (1976), The Gauntlet (1977), Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Any Which Way You Can (1980), Firefox (1982), Honkytonk Man (1982), Sudden Impact (1983), City Heat (1984), Pale Rider (1985), Heartbreak Ridge (1986), Bird (1988), The Dead Pool (1988), Pink Cadillac (1989), The Rookie (1990), best picture winner Unforgiven (1992), In the Line of Fire (1993) and A Perfect World (1993).
“He was extreme in getting what was required for the screenplay,” Mike Sexton, Aiona’s assistant before becoming prop master at Malpaso following his mentor’s retirement, said in a statement. "If the sewing needle for Unforgiven indicated the year was 1898, Eddie wouldn’t accept a needle from 1899. No one would know the difference except Eddie, who would track it down through a whole network of resources until he had it absolutely right, and this was in the era before access to the Internet.
“It was the scene where Morgan Freeman darns Clint’s face. Eddie went from references he had for antique markets, period collectors and museums until he had the needle for that year, and then he put it together with a little kit that was period exact.”
Aiona’s prop specialty was weapons, Gentry said, and he designed a fully-functional camouflage pistol for the assassin played by John Malkovich in In the Line of Fire. He worked often with veteran cinematographer Jack N. Green.
Born in Hawaii, the sinewy Aiona arrived on the mainland as a champion lightweight boxer in 1959. He drifted from boxing to day work at Paramount and then at Warner Brothers before finding his niche as a prop master.
A gifted sketch artist, Aiona also served as prop manager for two features directed by Eastwood’s onetime girlfriend Sondra Locke: Ratboy (1986) and Impulse (1990), both from Malpaso.
Survivors include his wife of 29 years, Bobbe; children Edward, Jan, Tadd and Penny; stepchildren Lynne, Richard, Jane and Gary; and grandchildren Mat, Tali, Andy, Noah, Katie, Gus and Haley. A private service is set for Hawaii.
AIONA, Eddie (Edward Aiona, Jr.)
Born: 1931, Hawaii
Died: 3/31/2015, Tarzana, California, U.S.A.
Eddie Aiona’s westerns – prop master:
The Outlaw Josey Wales – 1976
The Electric Horseman – 1979
Unforgiven - 1992