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The English Patient: Close to miscasting


Robert De Niro in disguise
Walter Murch Film-maker
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I heard a story about Robert De Niro, which if it isn't true, probably should be true. Which is that to defeat this, he would simply put on a disguise and go ride the subways. He would pretend to be somebody other than who he was with makeup and costume. Just so he could nourish that part of himself, and keep that part alive. But it can be wonderful. And it can go terribly wrong. And it is not always under the control of the actors themselves. The situations can change, and you can find yourself in a bottleneck that would have been very hard to predict five or 10 years earlier.

That great line from Sunset Boulevard, you know, the William Holden character says, 'I know you. You used to be great.' And she says, 'I am great. It's the movies that became small.' And you know, she was the victim of a shift in the industry that made her personality not work anymore.

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: Robert De Niro

Duration: 1 minute, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017