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Tetro: A year in Argentina


Turning down Hurt Locker and its repercussions
Walter Murch Film-maker
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Before Youth Without Youth had come out, I think we were working on the mix, or about to work on the mix. I was approached by Kathryn Bigelow, with whom I worked on K-19, and she had a film that she wanted to... Me to work on, that was based on a bomb disposal expert. This was the film Hurt Locker. And I read the screenplay, and met with Kathryn, and I said, 'I don't think I want to work on this, because I...' Jarhead, which was in similar, but different territory, I was still a little bruised from that experience of working on that film and it not being as successful as we wanted it to be. And then I realised I had worked on five war films in a row, if you count [Apocalypse] Redux as a war film, and K-19 as a military film, and Cold Mountain as a military film, and Jarhead as a military film. Hurt Locker would be another military film, and I was just... I felt that it was just... I wanted to change the subject a bit from military stuff.

And it's, you know, it's one of those decisions that if in retrospect, of course, Hurt Locker went on to win the Best Film. It won Best Film, and it won Best Editing, and it won Best Sound, and it swept the Oscars. And that year, you look at that and say, 'Well, that could've been me', but maybe it couldn't, you know. It... The dynamics are very peculiar, but the chances are that that would've been a very successful film that I... with which I could be associated with. And I had had a run of films that were slightly less successful than they... than we hoped for them, so that would've been nice to counterpoint it.

But that's, as they say, that's the breaks, that's the business. You have to make decisions based on the information that you have at the time, and that was the decision I made, and you... That's just the... That's part of the world that all of us who work in this business live with. There's a great deal of uncertainty about how these things come together, and when they come together, and if they come together, and... But that is a particularly clear example of turning down a project, and then seeing, in fact, what happened as a result of that.

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: Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow

Duration: 3 minutes, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017