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The optical effect that removed half-eaten sandwiches from Julia


An American in England
Walter Murch Film-maker
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When I was hired by Fred Zinnemann to work on Julia, I was working in England. I was an American. I think the only other two Americans on the film were Jane Fonda and Jason Robards, playing Dashiell Hammett. I could be wrong but anyway it was... We were definitely in a very small minority. And I think I was hired to work on the film because Fred Zinnemann had seen The Conversation and liked the editing of it. And he was also nervous about making a film about Americans in England and France and getting it wrong. Because he was 70 and he'd been making films in England since the early sixties. He had lived in the United States up until the fifties and then he'd moved to London. And this was now 15 years later and he felt, I think: 'Have I lost touch with America?'

And this is an American story. It's not Day of the Jackal, which is an entirely European story, or The Nun's Story, which is also European. This is an American story with Americans in it. 'Maybe I should get somebody in a key position who is American.' And that was, turned out to be me, which I'm very grateful for.

Born in 1943 in New York City, Murch graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His career stretches back to 1969 and includes work on Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient. He has been referred to as 'the most respected film editor and sound designer in modern cinema.' In a career that spans over 40 years, Murch is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, beginning in 1969 with The Rain People. After working with George Lucas on THX 1138 (1971), which he co-wrote, and American Graffiti (1973), Murch returned to Coppola in 1974 for The Conversation, resulting in his first Academy Award nomination. Murch's pioneering achievements were acknowledged by Coppola in his follow-up film, the 1979 Palme d'Or winner Apocalypse Now, for which Murch was granted, in what is seen as a film-history first, the screen credit 'Sound Designer.' Murch has been nominated for nine Academy Awards and has won three, for best sound on Apocalypse Now (for which he and his collaborators devised the now-standard 5.1 sound format), and achieving an unprecedented double when he won both Best Film Editing and Best Sound for his work on The English Patient. Murch’s contributions to film reconstruction include 2001's Apocalypse Now: Redux and the 1998 re-edit of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. He is also the director and co-writer of Return to Oz (1985). In 1995, Murch published a book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, in which he urges editors to prioritise emotion.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Julia, England, USA, Day of the Jackal, The Nun's Story, European

Duration: 1 minute, 25 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017