Eoin Sprott, Special Effects Master

Eoin Sprott

    Eoin Sprott, whose special effects can be seen in films as diverse as “The Wiz” and Woody Allen’s “Zelig,” died of cancer at home in Sag Harbor on Saturday. He was 77.
    Mr. Sprott’s career began with regional repertory theaters in England after he had served in the Royal Navy and traveled to Calcutta, where he worked for the East India Trading Company. His love of theater design eventually took him to Canada. He worked at the Manitoba Theatre in Winnipeg as production manager and designer and then at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, where he often collaborated with his close friend John Hirsch.
    When Mr. Sprott arrived in New York City, he began designing for the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center, the Chelsea Theatre, the New York City Opera, and, in Minneapolis, the Guthrie Theater. Assisting theatrical designers like Boris Aronson, Ming Cho Lee, Robin Wagner, and Tony Walton — another expat and Sag Harbor resident — Mr. Sprott produced props for one Broadway hit after another, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Lenny,” “Pippin,” “Zorba,” and “Oh! Calcutta!” among them.
    Mr. Sprott also taught at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and was a member of the United Scenic Artists union.
    Film work took off when Mr. Walton asked Mr. Sprott to make the intricate fantasy props for Sidney Lumet’s 1978 movie version of “The Wiz.” Shot at Astoria Studios in Queens, the film helped return moviemaking to New York and also helped launch the Eoin Sprott Studio in Astoria, where he and collaborators created props and special effects for “Deathtrap” — another collaboration with Mr. Walton and Mr. Lumet — “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy,” “Wolfen,” and “Gorky Park.” He also worked on the Broadway version of “Sweeney Todd” and countless other productions, from plays to television commercials.
    Susan Stroman, who directed the stage version of Mel Brooks’s “The Producers” and later its movie adaptation, presented Mr. Sprott with one of his greatest challenges: the construction of the articulated puppets for the infamous “Springtime for Hitler” sequence. From his studio in Sag Harbor, Mr. Sprott fashioned the puppets “with great success,” his family said in a statement. “And true to the art of special effects, the labor was well hidden and the result looked effortless.”
    The eldest of three children, Mr. Sprott was born on June 1, 1934, in Hampstead, England, to John Chappell Sprott and Freda Bone. He grew up in Dundee, Scotland.
    He is survived by his wife, Susan Sprott of Sag Harbor, a son, Stephen Sprott of Brooklyn, and by two sons from a previous marriage, Andrew Sprott of Wales and James Sprott of Canada. His two siblings, Gavin Sprott of Scotland and Catherine Scantlebury of England, also survive.
    A celebration of his life will be held at his rose garden in Sag Harbor on June 1.
    The family has suggested donations in Mr. Sprott’s name to East End Hospice, P.O. Box 1048, Westhampton Beach 11978.