'Top Gun' Sound Mixer William B. Kaplan to be Honored by Cinema Audio Society

WILLIAM B. KAPLAN
Photo Provided by the Cinema Audio Society

Seven-time Oscar-nominated sound mixer William B. Kaplan will be presented with the Cinema Audio Society's highest accolade, the Career Achievement Award, during its 57th CAS Awards on April 17, 2021. It's not yet determined if this will be a live or virtual ceremony.

Kaplan earned Academy Award nominations for  Tony Scott's Top Gun and Crimson Tide, as well as Robert Zemeckis' Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Contact, Cast Away, and The Polar Express. He also has a CAS win for Forrest Gump as well as three additional CAS nominations.

Kaplan's contributions to film include 155 feature films and, with no plans to retire, he is working on The Morning Show for Apple TV+.

"His work consists of decades of exceptional filmmaking. Many of the fruits of his labor remain forever in our hearts and minds as exemplary works of art and staples of global popular culture," said CAS president Karol Urban. "His professional journey is an inspiring tale of adventure, not unlike much of the films he has contributed to as a production sound mixer."

Kaplan grew up on the sets of MGM, where his father worked. He sat on the camera dolly watching Gene Kelly dance for Singing in the Rain, Bogart push the African Queen on stage, and Brando command the Bounty through a massive storm on Stage 30.

He attended Cal Western University, University of Arizona, USC, and UCLA, majoring in psychology and pre-med. Eventually he was waitlisted for film school when he was offered a job to DP on a 35mm, Mitchell rack-over, cinemascope feature. Having no familiarity with the equipment, he accepted the position and read the ASC manual for that camera. Ultimately, Kaplan received a master’s degree in film from UCLA.

Kaplan made his way to Roger Corman and New World where was a DP on numerous low-budget films. He was eventually offered $600/week as a sound mixer, including equipment, instead of the $250/week he was making as a DP, and so he shifted gears. In 1977, John Landis hired Kaplan as sound mixer on Kentucky Fried Movie, and followed that with eight more films, including Animal House, The Blues Brothers and Coming to America.

Over the next four decades, Kaplan was the primary sound mixer for directors Robert Zemeckis and Tony Scott on over 20 projects. On the film Top Gun, Kaplan recorded live dialogue between actors in fighter jets traveling at speeds beyond the sound barrier. Later, he was hired on Avatar.

The sound mixer said of the CAS honor, "When I was informed that I had been selected, I was astonished. I realize how many amazing, world-class mixers the CAS could have chosen. I was immediately humbled, amazed, and thrilled."