Oscars 2012: ‘Hugo’ editor Thelma Schoonmaker on kids, dogs and 3-D


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Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker’s professional relationship dates back to at least 1970, and the veteran editor has racked up plenty of acclaim over those decades of working with the venerable filmmaker, among many other directors. On Tuesday, she picked up her fourth Oscar nomination in 10 years and her seventh Academy Award nomination overall for film editing for Scorsese’s 3-D family film ‘Hugo,’ which led the field with 11 nods.


‘It’s so wonderful,’ Schoonmaker said. ‘I was hearing it on the radio that ‘Hugo’ won 11 nominations. I was in bed … it was like 7:30 a.m., and I heard about the 11. I think the love for this film is very intense. It’s the most [nominations] we’ve ever gotten, Scorsese and the whole crew. We’re going to have a great celebration.’

Presenting the 1930s-set tale in an additional dimension presented some additional challenges for the crew, Schoonmaker, 72, said, though those hurdles didn’t necessarily carry over into the edit bay. ‘Overall, it was a big challenge: the 3-D, the children, dogs. But it was a particularly joyous film to work on .... It was very complicated, technically, but the editing was surprisingly not difficult. We didn’t encounter the problems you hear about with 3-D -– I think it was very well thought out on set by Martin.’

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She said Scorsese’s long-held passion for 3-D films served the production. “Marty has always loved 3-D, movies like ‘Dial M for Murder’ and ‘House of Wax.’ We were worried about editing in 3-D, frankly, but all the caveats -- like you can’t cut from a wide shot to a close shot because people will get sick -- didn’t happen. And we were able to put our glasses on and edit in 3-D (because of a new technology). Most people can’t do that -- they have to edit in 2D.”

Schoonmaker said she has been thrilled by the reception the movie has received from critics and audiences: ‘When we first started showing the movie, we thought kids would be throwing popcorn and texting each other, but they’ve been riveted.’

She is unhappy, however, that none of the actors from the film -- the cast includes Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz and Ben Kingsley as a toy seller who turns out to be cinema pioneer Georges Melies, among others -- were nominated. ‘I’m a little disappointed because I thought they were wonderful,’ Schoonmaker said. ‘The emotion between Melies and a little boy is so wonderful. I’m a little sad, but you can’t have everything.’


‘The film is a distillation of all the work Scorsese has done over the years, to bring other artists the world has forgotten back to the world,’ Schoonmaker said. ‘And that’s what we’d like to get across. How important the history of film is to see and enjoy.’

The following video is from the Envelope Directors Roundtable. Here, filmmakers Stephen Daldry (‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’), Martin Scorsese (‘Hugo’), Alexander Payne (‘The Descendants’), Michel Hazanavicius (‘The Artist’) and George Clooney (‘The Ides of March’) spoke to The Times’ John Horn about some of the unique challenges of working with kids and dogs.

For the record, 1:47 p.m. Jan. 24: The headline on an earlier version of this post misspelled Thelma Schoonmaker’s last name as Schoomaker.


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