Francoise Bonnot, Oscar-Winning Editor on Costa-Gavras' 'Z,' Dies at 78

Francoise Bonnot - Obit-Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Wm. Stetz

The Frenchwoman collaborated nine times with the famed director and three times with Henri Verneuil, whom she would marry.

Francoise Bonnot, the Oscar-winning editor of Costa-Gavras' 1969 thriller Z, has died. She was 78.   

Bonnot died Saturday in Paris of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD, her son, Patrick Malakian, told The Hollywood Reporter.

"Her life was characterized by the inspiration she gave to so many people personally as well as professionally," he said. "The age of the people she was friends with ranged from 10 to 90. She was one of the first editors to try different editing methods. I remember her editing with a rack of VHS players long before it became digital, which she also mastered."

Bonnot's career spanned six decades and included work on Jean-Pierre Melville's Army of Shadows (1969); Roman Polanski's The Tenant (1976); George Cosmatos' The Cassandra Crossing (1976); Missing (1982), another Costa-Gavras classic; and the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker comedy Top Secret! (1984).

Near the end of her career, she also edited Julie Taymor's first four features: the Shakespeare adaptations Titus (1999) and The Tempest (2010), the Salma Hayek-led Frida (2002) and the Beatles-inspired Across the Universe (2007).

Z, Costa-Gavras' pulsating political thriller, documented the events surrounding the assassination of a prominent politician (it was loosely based on the real-life murder of Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis). The first movie ever nominated for best foreign-language film (which it won) as well as best picture, Z also received directing and writing noms.

On Oscar night in 1970, Z defeated Hello, Dolly!; The Secret of Santa Vittoria; They Shoot Horses, Don't They?; and eventual best picture winner Midnight Cowboy in the editing category.

"Well, I don't know what to say, just thank you. And I would like to thank Costa-Gavras, who gave me the chance to do it," Bonnot said in her brief acceptance speech at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Her working relationship with Costa-Gavras began with Z and lasted for nine films across 30 years and included The Confession (1970), State of Siege (1972), Hanna K. (1983) and Mad City (1997).

Missing was based on the real-life disappearance of American journalist Charles Horman during the 1973 Chilean coup. It starred Sissy Spacek and Jack Lemmon in Oscar-nominated roles and received best picture and screenplay noms.

In a statement to THR, Costa-Gavras, 85, said: "Francoise knew that cinema writing was also done at editing. She also knew how to capture and highlight the director's slightest intention.

"Her intellectual capacity and her technical expertise made her a perfect collaborator for the director and insurance for the producer. Her departure for Hollywood was a loss for French cinema; for her it was the peak of her ambition. It is a sad day."

Bonnot was born in Bois-Colombes, France, on Aug. 17, 1939. Her mother, Monique, was a noted editor whose work included Melville's 1967 masterpiece Le Samourai. It was with her mom that Bonnot co-edited 1962's A Monkey in Winter, which was directed by Turkey-born filmmaker Henri Verneuil.

Francoise would marry him shortly after and edit three more of his films. Verneuil died in 2002 at age 81.

Bonnot's other editing credits included Black and White in Color (1976), Year of the Dragon (1985) and 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992).

In addition to her son, a filmmaker, survivors include her daughter, Sophie, and grandchildren Lisa and Jules.

A memorial will take place Thursday at the Armenian Cathedral of St. Jean Baptiste in Paris. Donations can be made to O2&Cie, a French nonprofit helping patients with COPD.