MM: Did you find it beneficial to approach the project workflow wise like you would any other picture, or was this an instance where all rules were out and you had to adapt. Or did your basic core editing philosophy and practices stay the same?
BM: You know I actually did. The editing style was a little more unusual for me because, frankly, I’m an editor who tries to cut in the least amount of shots possible. Therefore, it was a bit stressful for me to try and get my head into Orson’s style. I forced myself to make unusual edits to keep the momentum and motion going. I also had to tell the story in the most logical way possible, to keep things as dramatic as possible and keep the story focused—deciding what’s important, what isn’t, and ultimately centering the story on the John Huston character, Jake Hannaford, and his protégé Brooks Otterlake who’s played by Peter Bogdanovich. As we move more into the third act, Hannaford’s story had to become more of a focus. There were some great scenes between some of the side characters that we decided not to include in the final cut because we knew it needed to focus more on Hannaford at that point. Finding that dramatic focus is part of any movie. As an editor, Orson had this philosophy where he said that, in the editing room, he was the enemy of the movie. He felt that once you get into editing, you have to forget about how important you think things are. Even though a shot is beautiful or a sequence is great, if it’s not serving the story, you need to get rid of it. Knowing how hard Orson was on his own material freed me to be tough on the material, to not feel like everything was precious just because Orson had shot or edited it.
MM: How did the ADR work within the editing process?
BM: We wanted to preserve the original performance as much as possible. In a movie like this, a lot of the sound takes were lost and others had poor quality, as we were relying on an old worn out track that Orson was using when he was cutting the movie on film. Other times, our only source was a old videotape or some scenes edited from a few different prints of varying sources. We still really wanted to preserve as much as the original sound as possible, so we were lucky enough to have a great sound crew. Daniel Saxlid, our dialogue editor and sound supervisor, and Scott Millan, our mixer were all committed to keeping as much as the original production sound as possible and hopefully using as little ADR as possible. Usually, if there’s a problem with the sound, you bring the actors back. In this case, most of the actors had passed away and even the actors that we did have access to, like Peter Bogdanovich, were a lot older and their voices had changed too much.
We had Danny Huston come in and do ADR for his dad John Huston. Even though he did a really good impersonation of his father, he didn’t really have the voice, the tone that came from the years his father smoked cigars and drank. In the end, we used ADR very sparingly. There were one or two instances where we couldn’t find a line or two, and used one little piece here, a word there, one syllable to clean something up. It’s a real credit to our sound crew and the technology we were working with. A couple years ago, we wouldn’t have had the digital technology that we have now in order to clean up the sound.
MM: Take me into these creative meetings you’re having with Peter Bogdanovich and Frank Marshall. How did this hierarchy function within the decision making process?
BM: Peter and Frank are both legendary filmmakers in their own right. Mainly, it’s important for them to be involved. Peter was friends with Orson for many years. Peter co-starred in the movie, and Frank had a close, personal relationship with Orson. Peter would stand in for Orson in these meetings, because Peter knew the kinds of things Orson liked and had an intimate knowledge of the process and the project. So he was basically the stand in for Orson. With Frank, Peter, and I, we worked like we would in any movie. I would show the scenes to the directors and producers and we would discuss how we felt about them. In terms of the actual editing within the scenes, I didn’t see a huge amount of input because they let me work with the material and come up with what I thought was best in terms of the edit, There were discussions about the overall flow of the edit, what things we should keep, what things we shouldn’t keep. It was great having those guys around, because we could also have the liberty of cutting down some of the scenes Orson had edited. Even though he had left maybe a 7 minute long scene in the movie within the movie (the “car in the rain” scene), we all felt that, once we put that in the completed film, it was a little bit too long. Everyone who worked with Orson knew his attitude towards this which, in the end, allowed me to cut those scenes down. It was nice to have someone that was part of that original movie to let me have the liberty to be tougher with the material than I might have otherwise.
MM: Did you find yourself using audio or cutaways originally meant for a different scene but in this moment it connects the narrative in a way that is more beneficial and keeps the story flowing?
BM: I actually didn’t need to do that as much as I would’ve thought. Getting into the really fragmented nature of the original shoot, Orson did have a plan for a lot of the footage and even though, for instance, two different actors in the same scene were shot several years apart in different places. All of Lili Palmer’s shots were done in Spain two years after everything else. She appears throughout the movie in many different scenes from the party at the house as well as the trip to the drive-in, and all her scenes were shot on a different continent two years later. It’s a real testament to Orson and to cinematographer Gary Graver that all that material integrates so well into the movie. It truly felt like characters were having conversations, even when they aren’t actually in the same room. Even though Orson shot it in this incredibly fragmented way, I didn’t need to do a lot of trickery to steal pieces from different scenes to make it work. He really did have an overall plan and, even though we didn’t know what that plan was, once we put the pieces together the plan became really clear. Things really worked out.