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Being sued for copyright infringement


'A ball and two legs and it is running around'
Walter Murch Film-maker
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On top of this, Michael had to coordinate his movements with Tim Rose, who was Tik-Tok's voice and puppeteer for Tik-Tok's head. So that Tik-Tok's... Where Tik-Tok was looking, whether Tik-Tok was blinking, whether Tik-Tok was moving his moustache, which was our proxy for speaking. Tik-Tok has no lips, he just has a moustache that moves up and down. 'Hello, little girl.'

So, Tim had to coordinate with Michael inside Tik-Tok, but Michael had to coordinate with Tim, even though Michael couldn't really see what Tim was doing because his only view was this wide, probably slightly fuzzy video image upside down inside Tik-Tok, in the dark. So, it's phenomenal that Tik-Tok was able to be embodied onscreen when you think of how complicated and almost inhuman the contortions have to be to make this seem like it's the most natural thing in the world. He got so good that he was... Michael was able to go upstairs and downstairs, to navigate these kind of perilous environments. As a director, of course I was thrilled to do this. I'd say, 'Fantastic, Michael, let's do it again.' 'And now can you do this?' So I would pile more and more achievements and to Michael's eternal credit, he rose to every occasion. l went in once to a rehearsal of Tik-Tok and, as you can imagine, this... We had to have Tik-Tok boot camp for about two months before we started shooting to allow Michael to come to terms with all of this problem.

And I walked on to the sound stage where these rehearsals were happening and I saw something that just astonished me and I wish I had been able to incorporate it somehow but I didn't, which was Michael was rehearsing without Tik-Tok's head. So there, if you can imagine Tik-Tok as this round ball with two legs sticking out of it. Under normal circumstances, Tik-Tok also had a head on top of the ball, which was another ball with a hat on it. For various reasons, the head was being worked on by Tim and so Michael wanted to rehearse, so he was rehearsing without the head. And the result was something completely, astonishingly inhuman. You looked at this and said, 'There's nobody in there. This is a creature that is somehow spontaneously doing what I'm seeing, but I don't understand how it's happening.' Because there was simply a ball and two legs and it was running around. It was only about this high and it was doing these amazing pirouettes. I mean, Michael was already very good at doing this. He was standing on one leg and on another leg and then twirling around and doing all of these balletic gyrations. And because of the missing head, it looked like... In fact, it looked like a head with two legs sticking out of it, running around. And if the story had been a different story, it would have been great to put a face on that ball and just say, 'This is a head with two legs and it's running around.' It's very Ozian. It's very easy to imagine Frank Baum dreaming up this kind of character and it being in a film.

But it was just one of those things that arrived too late in my consciousness to allow it to somehow be incorporated into the film. But if anyone wants to recreate that and you can find somebody... Unfortunately, Michael died a number of years ago. But if you want to recreate something like this, that has this hair-raising aspect to it, that's how you can do it.

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: Return to Oz, Michael Sundin, Frank L Baum, Tim Rose

Duration: 4 minutes, 59 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017