Oscars: 'American Sniper' Editors Respond to Film's Controversy

Fourteen Oscar nominees representing the categories of film editing or production design participated in panels Saturday at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre.
Peter Zakhary/Tilt Photo
From left: Editors Cross, Goldenberg, Pilling, Adair, Cox and Roach

Academy Award-winning editor Joel Cox — who has been working with Clint Eastwood for 40 years — thinks it’s a "a shame" that the politics of war have come into the conversation about American Sniper.

Gary Roach, who with Cox is nominated for editing American Sniper, noted that it’s "the story of Chris Kyle’s life. … dealing with life and the struggles of life after you go to war."

"I don’t thing anyone in this room wants to be at war. But we get drawn into things. They go to protect our freedom, and we don’t do enough for them when they return," Cox said, as the audience applauded his remarks.

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The pair — along with Sandra Adair (Boyhood), Tom Cross (Whiplash), William Goldenberg (The Imitation Game) and Barney Pilling (The Grand Budapest Hotel) — participated in American Cinema Editors' annual day-before-the-Oscars panel of nominated film editors. Dubbed "Invisible Art Visible Artists" and moderated by Academy Award-winning editor Alan Heim (All That Jazz), this tradition is in its 15th year at Grauman’s Hollywood Egyptian Theatre.

Afterward, the Art Directors Guild and Set Decorators of America presented the venue’s 10th annual "Art of Production Design" panel with its nominees. Both events attracted capacity crowds.

During the ACE panel, Cross and Adair talked about their backgrounds in the business and work on their nominated films before heading to the Spirit Awards, where Cross won in the editing category. Whiplash is only Cross' third movie as sole editor, and he started his career in New York working on television commercials. During the panel, he recalled that it wasn’t so long ago when he moved to L.A. and was standing in line to get into this annual ACE nominees panel. Adair talked about her history working with Boyhood director Richard Linklater, which has spanned 19 films in 22 years.

Grand Budapest was Pilling’s first outing with director Wes Anderson. Asked how he voices his opinion when he has a different view from a director, Pilling got a laugh when he joked, "Anyway you can: gentle persuasion to mild begging to physical violence."

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Goldenberg (who is currently editing the Will Smith drama Concussion) and Pilling both admitted that they prefer not to spend a lot of time on set during production, as it can cloud their judgment on the takes. Pilling said he wants to get a pure emotional response to each take. “I don’t want to know any drama of the set,” Goldenberg agreed, adding with a chuckle, “Also, I feel like I'm in the way.”

A Motion Picture Editors Guild and ACE luncheon followed with the nominees at The Musso and Frank Grill.

Next up at the Egyptian was the production design panel, during which several speakers talked about collaboration with the director of photography.

“Directors of photography are our best friends,” said production designer Dennis Gassner, speaking of his collaboration with Dion Beebe for Into the Woods. “The way Into The Woods worked was the lighting; getting from a stage to the [locations] was such a tricky thing to do. The amount of testing [was extensive]. It’s a true collaboration with the DP.”

Mr. Turner production designer Suzie Davies noted that “if [the film’s subject, painter J.M.W. Turner] was alive, he’d be making movies. His work is cinematic.” She added that Mr. Turner’s Oscar-nominated director of photography Dick Pope “did an amazing job of capturing light like Turner. We communicated all the time. It was the genius of Dick Pope in [giving the sets their look].”

Asked what tools designers use to communicate ideas with the cinematographer, Mr. Turner set decorator Charlotte Watts got a big laugh when she responded, “gin and tonic.”

Also participating were The Grand Budapest Hotel’s production designer Adam Stockhausen; The Imitation Game’s production designer Maria Djurkovic and set decorator Tatiana MacDonald; Interstellar’s production designer Nathan Crowley and set decorator Gary Fettis. (Unable to attend was Anna Pinnock, set decorator on The Grand Budapest Hotel and Into the Woods.) ADG past president Thomas A. Walsh and SDSA member Rosemary Brandenburg moderated the conversation.

Email: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com
Twitter: @CGinLA