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HomeAwardsContender PortfoliosSound Mixer Greg Russell’s 14th Trip to the Big Feast

Sound Mixer Greg Russell’s 14th Trip to the Big Feast

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Salt's sound mixer Greg Russell has been nominated 14 times.

“I’ve done pretty well,” sound mixer Greg P. Russell recounts, thinking specifically of his surprise nomination for overseeing the aural interweaving in the Angelina Jolie-starring spy thriller Salt. It’s a surprise not because the work isn’t good, but because the summer thriller was almost shut out of serious award consideration. Russell, in fact, is the movie’s lone flag bearer on Oscar night.

But he’s done pretty well on Oscar night trips in the past. Salt is his 14th trip to the tux rental shop – (well, we’re pretty sure he owns one by now) – having been nominated in the past for the likes of The Rock, Pear Harbor, two Spidermen, two Transformers, and many others. And yet, with all that tux-wearing, he’s still looking to come home with his first statue.

He wonders, being Salt’s lone outpost on award night this year, if his odds are any better. “Our competition is all best picture nominees!” he notes, referring to True Grit, Inception, The King’s Speech and The Social Network as the work that rounds out the Best Achievement in Sound Mixing category. On the plus side, though, “this is my first time going with Scott Millan. I’ve lost to him before. Now he’s on my team. Maybe he’ll bring us good luck!”

Millan is one of the nominated quartet of mixologists along with Russell. The other two are William Sarokin and Jeffery J. Haboush. Russell is quick to enthusiastically credit them, “a great crew of sound editors,” (citing, for starters, dialogue editor Deborah Wallach) and everyone else associated with the movie.

Of Millan, the music mixer on the the film, Russell says, “his musical sensibility is as good as it gets.”  Which complemented the “amazing score,” as he terms it, composed by James Newton Howard. He’s also quick to complement Steward Baird’s editing (done with John Gilroy) and Bob Elswit’s cinematography, along with Jolie’s willingness to do so many of her own stunts.

Sound mixer Greg Russell (left) and Salt director Phillip Noyce.
His effusiveness is part of his wondering aloud why  he should be the lone nominee of a film he regards as a generally underrated solid summer thriller. But the auditory aspects have gleaned notice. “I got on the cover of Mix Magazine,” he says, and in his 27 years of mixing, (and his string of 14 nominations), that particular honor had eluded him in the past.

Speaking of the sound elements in particular, he says that director Phillip Noyce is a “strong proponent of sound.”  Which meant there was a lot to mix. “A lot of information in the story is exchanged through walkie talkies,” he says, via radio calls, and other pieces of equipment.

There were the aforementioned dialogue and score elements, working with visual effects that were “big and punchy, never painful.” He also credits producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura who pitched in to the mixing by listening to music cues, suggesting radio call additions. “It was all about the energy,” he summarizes, and “so many great things that came from so many people.”

It must have worked, since the director pronounced it “the best-sounding Phillip Noyce film yet.”

The art of the mix, he says,“is all about clarity, definition, detail; it’s all about shape. It really was an exciting film.”

Whether he’ll get an additional jolt of excitement on Oscar night – in addition to the pervasive, (and for him, recurring), excitement of having been nominated – remains to be seen. For a short while longer.

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