Veteran Film Editor Mark Goldblatt on Helping to Originate 'Terminator'

The Terminator Still - Photofest - H 2018
Courtesy of Photofest

Sitting down with Academy Award-nominated editor Mark Goldblatt at his Beverly Hills home, the Brooklyn native’s lifelong passion for film — especially sci-fi, fantasy and horror — can’t be more evident. His office is filled with film books in floor-to-ceiling bookcases, photos and movie posters of some of his favorite projects such as The Terminator and Starship Troopers. His desk is loaded with memorabilia including figurines from King Kong and Jason and the Argonauts.

“I love movies,” he says with an enthusiastic smile as he revealed two more rooms in his home, filled with his collection of literally thousands of movies, as well as his home screening room.

Goldblatt studied at the London Film School, but the first of his big breaks came while working at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures with Gale Ann Hurd, who was planning to make The Terminator (1984) with James Cameron.

She recommended Goldblatt, which led to a lunch with Cameron. “We had a lot in common in terms of the films that we like,” Goldblatt recalls. “We were both extremely enamored with George Miller’s Mad Max films — Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, especially. He wanted to make a world-class science fiction film; he was very inspiring. And he was dead serious. As I later learned, he worked harder than anybody else on the picture. He was totally committed to his work. It was an honor to work on that project. The footage was amazing; it cut together beautifully.”

Goldblatt’s favorite scene is the one set at the Tech Noir club, during which Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is running from the Terminator as well as Kyle, unsure why either are chasing her. “In many ways it's a perfect scene. It creates suspense; it’s got three different characters’ points of view. We don’t know who the good guys or the bad guys are, really, but they are all meeting in one place at the same time. And then all hell breaks loose. We realize that the Terminator is unstoppable. It takes us right into the chase scene.”

The film was shot in just eight weeks on a $6.4 million budget, the editor recalls. “He was shooting six days a week, maybe seven on his own dime sometimes. We’d try to get together on the weekends at some point; I wanted to keep him up to date on what I was doing. The relationship was working and the movie was working. You know, we had the usual, the studio wasn’t sure what we were doing. But we knew it was working. I tried to assuage their fears, and tell them, ‘This goes together perfectly; there’s nothing missing.’”

Reteaming with Cameron on 1991’s Terminator 2, Goldblatt was one of a trio of editors (Goldblatt, Conrad Buff IV and Richard A. Harris earned Oscar nominations for editing the film) and had much more time. “But given the scale of the film, it’s not that we had a lot of time,” Goldblatt says. “The Terminator arriving was more complicated technically that the first picture. There’s a scene toward the end of the picture where the Terminator and the T-1000 are fighting, and parts were CG, parts were practical [effects] and parts were just the actors.”

Goldblatt would go on to work with filmmakers including Paul Verhoeven, Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay. He recalls how cutting the climax of Bay’s Armageddon (for which Goldblatt was one of three editors, alongside Chris Lebenzon and Glen Scantlebury) proved particularly tricky.

As a refresher, in the film a giant asteroid is on a collision course with Earth, and a group of heroes in a cast let by Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck head into space to try to destroy it. “It’s a race against time for the heroes, who had to wear very heavy space suits. They were very difficult for the actors to wear on set. And it was rocky terrain. So the clock is ticking, and the actors are moving like this,” Goldblatt says, standing and moving in slow motion. 

“I though, my God, how do you make this exciting when it takes them five minutes to get from here to there (points a few feet away). We had to cut very fast,” he recalls with a laugh.

Goldblatt also directed a few films, notably The Punisher and Dead Heat. Throughout his career, he also championed editors and assistants, serving as president of ACE, and he’s currently in his 11th year as a member of AMPAS’ board of governors.

On his love of the sci-fi/horror/fantasy genre, he sums up, “It’s spectacle, and it enables you to deal with political issues in metaphor. I was a fan when I was a kid; I still am."

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.