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HomeAwardsContender-Mike McCusker-Editor-3:10 to Yuma

Contender-Mike McCusker-Editor-3:10 to Yuma


Michael McCusker has been working with director James Mangold since he assisted editor David Brenner on Kate & Leopold in 2001, but it was his editing of the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line that not only cemented his relationship with the director, but also brought his editing to the attention of the various awards committees.
With 3:10 to Yuma, McCusker again gets to flex his editing muscles. Regarding his successful collaboration with Mangold, McCusker says: “It’s hard to put a finger on, but I think Jim trusts that I’m looking after his movie. I think that’s the case with any editor and director who have done multiple projects together. There’s a level of trusting. That’s one of the basic ingredients for what goes on with Jim and I. I feel very lucky that he has enough trust in me to deal with all the problems he has while making a movie, which nowadays is a huge challenge. I’ll hold the fort down in the editing room and deliver something to him that he’s happy with.”
When the director comes into the cutting room, McCusker says he feels that they are on the same track and share the same thought process from the start. He knows how the director likes to shoot and understands his style. There is a comfort level in their working relationship.
Their tastes in material are also similar. McCusker prefers the rich, character-driven movies that Mangold is known for. “He is not a gimmicky filmmaker, he is really straightforward, in terms of wanting to tell a solid character-driven story,” McCusker says. “That’s why I’ve always wanted to go to the movies.”
The stagecoach sequence was the most challenging part of cutting the movie. An important action sequence, it was shot over a long period of time and was described by McCusker as “a living, breathing thing.” The edit was constantly being refined every time new shots came in.
Although the director normally didn’t push to see a lot of the cut during the production, Mangold wanted to see a lot of versions of that sequence to make sure there was enough coverage. The approach to the scene put the camera right in with the characters.
“It was not shot as a lot of big open spaces,” says McCusker. “You felt like you were in the scene – on a horse, in the stagecoach. I was getting a lot of pieces, so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out where a particular piece of action belonged. In the end, it was a smart way to shoot the movie. It made it very exciting.”
McCusker feels working on the film with actors such as Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, a talented director and a great script, was “like a wonderland. You get so many rich things to cut, you feel like you don’t want to screw it up. You make sure to do the right thing.”
— Mary Ann Skweres

Written by Mary Ann Skweres

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