Thelma Schoonmaker


Editor

About

Also Known As
Thelma Schoonmaker-Powell
Birth Place
Algeria
Born
January 03, 1940

Biography

Ever since her Oscar-worthy cutting on "Raging Bull" (1980) - arguably one of the greatest films ever made - editor Thelma Schoonmaker enjoyed an exclusive working relationship - as well as a close friendship - with director Martin Scorsese. Not since the partnership between director Billy Wilder and writer I.A.L. Diamond has there been collaboration as creatively fruitful and personally...

Family & Companions

Michael Powell
Husband
Director. Married from May 1984 until his death on February 19, 1990; introduced to one another by Martin Scorsese.

Notes

Some sources list 1945 as her birthyear.

Biography

Ever since her Oscar-worthy cutting on "Raging Bull" (1980) - arguably one of the greatest films ever made - editor Thelma Schoonmaker enjoyed an exclusive working relationship - as well as a close friendship - with director Martin Scorsese. Not since the partnership between director Billy Wilder and writer I.A.L. Diamond has there been collaboration as creatively fruitful and personally fulfilling. Soft-spoken and decidedly low-key, Schoonmaker has been the polar opposite of her excitable and demonstrative counterpart, allowing for a symbiosis of equal footing in the editing room; two sides of the same coin that together produced some of the most iconic films in recent memory.

Born on Jan. 3, 1940 in Algiers, Algeria where her father worked for Standard Oil, Schoonmaker and her family then relocated to Aruba in the Caribbean, where her mom ran a nursery school. In her teenage years, Schoonmaker's family moved yet again; this time to the States, settling in New Jersey. Filled with patriotic verve, she attended Cornell University, where she studied political science and Russian, intending to become a diplomat. She was dissuaded, however, for being too idealistic - her impassioned views on the issues dominating life in the late-1960s would have limited her in affecting someone else's agenda. So instead, Schoonmaker attended New York University for a summer of post graduate work. It was there that she first met Scorsese. They connected immediately, working together on the director's first feature, "Who's That Knocking on My Door?" (1967), which followed a working-class Italian-American (Harvey Keitel) as he dates an upper-class girl (Zina Bethune), only to break off their relationship when he discovers she is not a virgin. The film marked the first collaboration between the two giants in their future respective fields, but it would be over a decade before Schoonmaker and Scorsese would work alongside one another again as director and editor.

Interestingly, Schoonmaker did work once with Scorsese in that 13-year window - but not in their usual capacities. The two were credited as editorial supervisors on the award-winning documentary "Woodstock" (1970), though Schoonmaker was the only person on the editing team who was nominated for Best Editing at the 43rd Annual Academy Awards. Because Schoonmaker had failed to join the union at that time, she denied ever working with Scorsese, even though the director repeatedly called asking for her services. Instead, she began cutting documentaries for WQED in Pittsburgh, followed by a short film for Paul McCartney on a world tour. After serving as a special consultant on "The Kids Are Alright" (1979), a documentary about the classic rock super group The Who, Schoonmaker was finally able to reunite with Scorsese. Though the details remained unclear, even to Schoonmaker, Scorsese managed to get the editor into the union, paving the way for her to cut "Raging Bull." Not knowing what to expect, Schoonmaker was taken by surprise with the sheer power of the film Scorsese shot - particularly the improvisations between Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. With the director by her side, Schoonmaker sculpted a film that earned the editor her first Academy Award for Best Editing.

It was around the time of her work on "Raging Bull" that Schoonmaker was introduced to director Michael Powell. Scorsese had resurrected Powell, whose career had been destroyed because of the controversial film, "Peeping Tom" (1960), by bringing him to the Telluride Film Festival. Schoonmaker later met the obscure Powell via Scorsese and immediately fell in love, despite him being 30 years her senior. They married in 1984 after a three-year courtship, the announcement of which was a shock to most everyone, particularly Scorsese. Meanwhile, Schoonmaker got to work on her next Scorsese film, "The King of Comedy" (1983), an often overlooked classic with De Niro starring as the enigmatic and delusional Rupert Pupkin, a wannabe comedian who kidnaps a late night host (Jerry Lewis) in order to get his big shot at breaking in. Though no award nominations were forthcoming, the film further cemented the couple's relationship, leading to Schoonmaker cutting Scorsese's less-characteristic romantic comedy "After Hours" (1985) and "The Color of Money" (1986), a continuation of "The Hustler" (1961), with Paul Newman reviving "Fast" Eddie Felson as he takes a cocky young protégé (Tom Cruise) under his wing.

For "The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988), Schoonmaker shaped the rough and gritty images of Scorsese's controversial take on Scripture, depicting a Messiah tempted to forsake his role as Savior in order to be like the rest of us. She next cut "Life Lessons," Scorsese's acclaimed contribution to "New York Stories" (1989), an anthology of three stories about life in New York City also directed by Woody Allen and Francis Ford Coppola. Schoonmaker then displayed perhaps her finest editing work to date on "Goodfellas" (1990), Scorsese's sprawling gangster epic depicting real-life mobster-turned-FBI informant Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and his climb - and subsequent fall - in the mafia ranks. Schoonmaker earned her third Academy Award nomination, but like Scorsese, she was denied a win. Prior to "Goodfellas" being released, Schoonmaker's ailing husband, who had been suffering from prostate cancer, died at the age of 84. But Schoonmaker carried on her husband's legacy, sharing his films with audiences at screenings and festivals over the ensuing years.

Continuing her collaboration with Scorsese, Schoonmaker edited his remake of the Robert Mitchum classic "Cape Fear" (1991), starring Robert De Niro as the deranged ex-con Max Cady, then cut the exceptional - though largely underrated - adaptation of Edith Wharton's period romance "The Age of Innocence" (1993). After supervising the editing on "A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies" (1995), a three-part documentary chronicling the director's self-discovery as a filmmaker, came Schoonmaker's master work on "Casino" (1995), Scorsese's epic look at the mob's dying days in Las Vegas. Her work on this film was sadly overlooked come Oscar season. She next made the rare jump to another director, supervising the editing on Allison Anders' "Grace of My Heart" (1996), though Scorsese did serve as the indie film's executive producer.

Schoonmaker closed out the millennium cutting two of Scorsese's weaker, but well-intentioned features, "Kundun" (1997), a beautifully shot biopic on the 14th Dalai Lama forced into exile in 1959 after the Chinese invasion of Tibet, and "Bringing Out the Dead" (1999), a frantic and often muddled black comedy that echoed "Taxi Driver" in that it followed a burnt-out ambulance driver (Nicolas Cage) working the graveyard shift in New York City. After cutting "My Voyage to Italy" (2001), a documentary chronicling the history of Italian cinema, Schoonmaker returned to Oscar with her work on "The Gangs of New York" (2002), Scorsese's epic period piece that followed the Irish mob in 1860's Manhattan. Though nominated for her fourth Academy Award, she was denied a win. But her next film, "The Aviator" (2004), a sprawling, if slightly unfocused biopic on famed airline entrepreneur and billionaire Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), Schoonmaker took home her second Oscar for Best Editing - though once again, her old friend Scorsese failed to follow suit.

She earned top honors again with her next film, "The Departed" (2006), Scorsese's all-star gangster thriller about an undercover cop (DiCaprio) infiltrated into the South Boston mob headed by a ruthless chieftain (Jack Nicholson), who has his own mole (Matt Damon) inside the state police. This time, however, editor and director shared in Oscar glory - Schoonmaker won her third statue for Best Editing, while Scorsese finally earned his first for Best Director.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Woodstock (1970)
Assistant Director

Assistant Direction (Feature Film)

Woodstock: The Director's Cut (1970)
Assistant Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Bad 25 (2012)
Herself
Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (Do Not Use) (2011)
Herself

Editing (Feature Film)

The Irishman (2018)
Editor
The Snowman (2017)
Editor
Silence (2016)
Editor
Bombay Velvet (2015)
Editor
Learning to Drive (2014)
Editor
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Editor
Hugo (2011)
Editor
Shutter Island (2010)
Editor
The Departed (2006)
Editor
The Aviator (2004)
Editing
Gangs of New York (2002)
Editing
My Voyage to Italy (1999)
Editor
Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
Editor
Kundun (1997)
Editor
Grace of My Heart (1996)
Supervising Editor
A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995)
Editor
Casino (1995)
Editor
The Age Of Innocence (1993)
Editor
Cape Fear (1991)
Editor
Goodfellas (1990)
Editor
New York Stories (1989)
Editor
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Editor
The Color of Money (1986)
Editor
After Hours (1985)
Editor
The King Of Comedy (1983)
Editor
Raging Bull (1980)
Editing
Woodstock (1970)
Film Editor
Woodstock: The Director's Cut (1970)
Editor Supervisor
The Virgin President (1968)
Film Editor
Who's That Knocking at My Door? (1968)
Film Editor
Passages From "Finnegans Wake" (1967)
Film Editor

Film Production - Main (Feature Film)

The King Of Comedy (1983)
Production Supervisor

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Bad 25 (2012)
Other
Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (Do Not Use) (2011)
Other
The Kids Are Alright (1979)
Consultant

Cast (Special)

Glorious Technicolor (1998)
Martin Scorsese Directs (1990)

Editing (Special)

AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute To Robert De Niro (2003)
Editor
The 71st Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1999)
Editor

Life Events

1967

Co-edited "Passages From James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake"

1967

Initial collaboration with Martin Scorsese, "Who's That Knockin' at My Door?"

1970

With Scorsese, served as editorial supervisor on the documentary "Woodstock"; though only Schoonmaker was cited in the Oscar nomination for Best Film Editing

1970

Spent a decade working on various projects as a non-union editor, including a documentary on the American Revolution that was never completed, a public-TV show on the Supreme Court, a CBS special documentary of a Paul McCartney tour, and a mountaineering piece that was also not completed but did receive screenings

1980

Joined the film editors' union and cut her first commercial release Scorsese's "Raging Bull"; became sixth woman to recieve the Best Film Editing Academy Award; became Scorsese's editor of choice

1983

Cut "The King of Comedy"

1988

Was editor of the controversial "The Last Temptation of Christ"

1990

Received Academy Award nomination for editing "GoodFellas"

1993

Cut "The Age of Innocence"

1996

Served as supervising editor of Allison Anders' "Grace of My Heart", executive produced by Scorsese

1997

Edited the biopic of the Dalai Lama, "Kundun"

1999

Again worked with Scorsese on "Bringing Out the Dead"

2002

Edited Scorsese's "Gangs of New York"

2004

Won second Oscar editing the Howard Hughes biopic "The Aviator" for director by Martin Scorsese

2006

Won third Oscar working with Scorsese on "The Departed"

Videos

Movie Clip

Age Of Innocence, The (1993) - Shattered By A Whisper From the opening opera sequence, with one of a series of single takes as remarkable as any by director Martin Scorsese and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, with Joanne Woodward’s enthralling narration from the Edith Wharton novel, following Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis), in The Age Of Innocence, 1993.
Age Of Innocence, The (1993) - Tell Me What You're Running From Director Martin Scorsese breaks with narrative convention, with Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) after attending a play, involving yellow roses, with Countess Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), then joining her upstate, their desire still repressed, when Beaufort (Stuart Wilson) appears, in The Age Of Innocence, 1993.
Who's That Knocking At My Door? (1968) - You Always Like The Bad Guys J.R. (Harvey Keitel) recalls another meeting with "the girl," (Zina Bethune), where they talk about Lee Marvin, then Sally (Michael Scala) recalls being with his girl (Wendy Russell), as they arrive at an uptown brothel, in Martin Scorsese's first feature Who's That Knocking At My Door?, 1968.
Who's That Knocking At My Door? (1968) - A Tri-Mod Film Fans who've seen Catherine Scorsese's numerous appearances in her son Martin's films might not realize she opened his first student-feature as well, Harvey Keitel also introduced, in the budget-free Who's That Knocking At My Door?, completed in 1968.
Color Of Money, The (1986) - Luck Itself Director Martin Scorsese narrates his opening, in which Paul Newman, in his Academy Award-winning performance reprising "Fast Eddie Felson," from The Hustler, 1961, is introduced, along with Helen Shaver and John Turturro, in The Color Of Money, 1986, also starring Tom Cruise.
Color Of Money, The (1986) - Nice Average Bad Neighborhood After a false start or two, veteran hustler Eddie (Paul Newman) brings his trainee pool shark Vincent (Tom Cruise), with girlfriend Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) to an old haunt, meeting friend Orvis (Bill Cobbs), in Martin Scorsese's The Color Of Money, 1986.
Color Of Money, The (1986) - Rich Can Be Arranged Impressed with the talents of Vincent (Tom Cruise), Eddie Felson (Paul Newman, in his Academy Award performance) begins introducing him, with girlfriend Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), to some of the other components of pool hustling, in Martin Scorsese's The Color Of Money, 1986.
Thelma Schoonmaker on Michael Powell -- (TCM Original) A Matter of Life and Death Academy Award-winning film editor Thelma Schoonmaker on her late husband Michael Powell's film A Matter of Life and Death, 1947, a.k.a. "Stairway to Heaven."
Thelma Schoonmaker on Michael Powell -- (TCM Original) The Red Shoes Academy Award-winning film editor Thelma Schoonmaker on her late husband Michael Powell's film The Red Shoes, 1948.

Trailer

Companions

Michael Powell
Husband
Director. Married from May 1984 until his death on February 19, 1990; introduced to one another by Martin Scorsese.

Bibliography

Notes

Some sources list 1945 as her birthyear.