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The kinetic, high-octane storytelling in George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road delivered editor Margaret Sixel her first Oscar on Sunday night.
Sixel becomes the 12th woman to win the Academy Award for film editing, a craft that has been more welcoming to women than many other aspects of moviemaking.
“Us Mad Maxers are doing okay tonight,” said Sixel. “Thank you so much to the Academy. You know, Mad Max was the best-reviewed film of 2015. Audiences loved it, and to be honored tonight is just more than we could ever have hoped for.”
She continued: “But it took enormous creative courage and guts to make this film, so I just want to say thanks to George Miller, Doug Mitchell and the whole crew that endured six months in that Namibian desert to bring back the most amazing footage. But honestly, it’s in the edit room that the final … that the film is finally forged. It’s the final rewrite, so I just want to salute my beloved picture department who are in Sydney, and all who work in post, who work with their hands, heads and most importantly, their hearts.”
The legendary MGM film editor Margaret Booth, who was recognized with an honorary Oscar in 1978, laid the groundwork for women looking to work in the field. Other notable editors who followed in her footsteps include Anne V. Coates, who won an Oscar for Lawrence of Arabia, and Verna Fields, an Oscar winner for Jaws, as well as Thelma Schoonmaker, who has taken home three Oscars for her work with Martin Scorsese on Raging Bull, The Aviator and The Departed.
The South African-born Sixel is also Miller’s wife of 20 years. She has cut several of the director’s films, including Happy Feet and Babe: Pig in the City.
The history of husband-and-wife teams at the Oscars includes Marcia Lucas, who was one of three editors that won Oscars for Star Wars, which was directed by her nominated then-husband, George Lucas. And Catherine Martin earned Oscars for production and costume design for Moulin Rouge, which was directed by her nominated husband, Baz Luhrmann. In 1997, Fargo produced Oscars for director Joel Coen (screenplay) and his wife, Francis McDormand (best actress). Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh won three Oscars each in 2004 for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, with both winning as producers and writers, and Jackson additionally winning for direction and Walsh for original song.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Miller admitted that Sixel initially didn’t want to edit Mad Max, saying she wasn’t “into the action genre,” but he was persistent. “She has a super brain and can solve a problem like a Rubik’s Cube,” said Miller. “[In Mad Max] there must be a progression in what the audience learns about the characters and what the world is about. And you are doing it on the run — there’s no stopping for exposition.”
On the strength of Mad Max, Sixel also earned a BAFTA and the American Cinema Editors’ Eddie Award for best edited dramatic feature this awards season.
Sixel topped a film editing category at the Oscars that also included Hank Corwin for The Big Short, Stephen Mirrione for The Revenant, Tom McArdle for Spotlight and Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
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