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Michael Jackson – Peter Pan and astute businessman in one person


'Captain EO, your ship is about to take off'
Walter Murch Film-maker
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I remember he had only one question to ask me as a director, which is, 'Where do I look?' It was a musical... We were shooting one of the big musical numbers. And he knew exactly what he was going to do, and there as nobody to gainsay what he was about to do, certainly not me. But his question to me as the director is, 'Where's my eye line?' And I gave him an eye line, and he took off.

Francis had told me, 'It's sometimes hard to get Michael out of his dressing room. And if that happens, here's what you do. You try the usual techniques, five minutes. When ultimately that doesn't work, you address him as Captain EO. You say: Captain EO, your ship is about to take off.' And that's what happened. He wouldn't come out of his dressing room. He was playing with trains or something, or making the deal to steal The Beatles' catalogue, which was going on at the same time, or outbidding Paul McCartney for The Beatles' catalogue. And so I said, 'Captain EO, your ship is about to take off.' And boom, he came out of the door dressed up in costume and ready to go.

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: Captain EO, Michael Jackson

Duration: 1 minute, 31 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017