Editor Ronald Sanders was just moving into picture editing from sound supervising when a mutual interest in motor racing and motorcycles led him to edit director David Cronenberg’s 1979 drag-racing film, Fast Track.
“I must have done okay,” says Sanders, “because he asked me back. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
And the beginning of a 20-plus year collaboration on most of Cronenberg’s films, including classics such as The Fly, Dead Ringers and A History of Violence. Their most recent endeavor together is the dark Viggo Mortensen thriller Eastern Promises. Sanders attributes the productive association partially to Cronenberg’s preference for working with the same key people that know what he likes and wants, and that he is comfortable spending time with.
“It’s so much easier,” says Sanders. “Everyone knows what’s going on. You don’t have to start a new relationship. It’s very relaxed and easy, and he likes things to be relaxed and quiet when he’s making a film.” Despite the intensity of the film’s subject matter, the months of production in London progressed with a happy calm. “It was not hugely difficult. It was a lot of people playing at the top of their game,” Sanders adds.
The greatest challenge Sanders faced on Eastern Promise was his own fear. “The actors were so good, I didn’t want to screw it up,” he said. “You see good performance and hope to do it justice.” The chemistry between the actors, in both action and dialog sequences, impressed Sanders. “It was satisfying to watch that in the rushes and then edit the scenes. The steam-bath scene that a lot of people talk about was the perfect example of an action scene that was so well thought out, choreographed and shot, and the actors were so good in it, that by the time I got to it, it was relatively straightforward and a lot of fun. Sometimes action scenes are difficult because you have a lot of material, but this one was a well-realized scene.”
Sanders also feels Mortensen doesn’t always get as much credit for his acting as he deserves. “I’ve done two pictures with him now. He’s completely believable. His performance is true. He works really hard to prepare, but has a very light touch. When you’re in the cutting room, you know what actors are delivering every day. He’s very, very good. And he’s a nice guy!”
The overwhelming feeling about the whole project was that everything went well. “I guess the right choices were made,” says Sanders. “It was the best experience, which of course makes it difficult to find something else that’s going to be as good.”
– Mary Ann Skweres
Written by Mary Ann Skweres