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Filmmaking is similar to cooking


First Knight: Old Hollywood extravaganza
Walter Murch Film-maker
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We worked together again, a number of years later on a film, First Knight, with Sean Connery and Richard Gere, which is a reinvention of the Arthurian legend. It was a wonderful film, but not financially or critically successful. There are probably many diffuse reasons for that. I mean, it did fine. But it wasn't the hit that Ghost was, for certain. It was not a funny film. It had some quirky moments in it.

But Jerry, who had written and directed Airplane!, which is a very, very funny film, and many other films like that. And Ghost had this funniness to it, the Zucker touch, but also ventured into these other realms. First Knight was not that. And maybe people didn't know how to take that. And it's a fabulous evocation of Arthurian legend. It's not like Excalibur, which had come out a few years earlier, John Boorman's film. It wasn't down and dirty Arthurian stuff, which you can also do, and probably would fit the sensibility of the time more. This was kind of more like old Hollywood extravaganza. I think there was a problem in the casting of it, which illustrative of the problem, which is, do we believe that Richard Gere, who specialised in kind of suave, modern urbanity. Do we believe that he is Lancelot? It's a stretch, and especially in a film with Sean Connery.

But I remember, you know, I would be getting various drafts of the screenplay, and talking to Jerry about the progress. And initially, King Arthur was not a featured part of the story. It was really focused on Lancelot. And there were certain casting ideas that came along with that. And then, through some piece of Hollywood prestidigitation, Sean Connery was suddenly… He let it be known that he was available, or something. And he became King Arthur.

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: First Knight, Ghost, Airplane!, King Arthur, Sean Connery, Richard Gere, Jerry Zucker

Duration: 2 minutes, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017