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John Wright, Oscar-Nominated Editor Behind Speed and The Hunt for Red October, Dies at 79

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John Gordon Wright, ACE the Emmy-winning Editor who earned Oscar nominations for Speed and The Hunt for Red October, died on April 20 at his home in Calabasas following a battle with prostate and bone cancer. He was 79.

Born in Glendale, Wright landed his first job as an editor at KABC-TV shortly after graduating from Van Nuys High School. He soon found himself working on National Geographic and Jacques Cousteau specials before serving as an Assistant Film Editor on enduring ’70s films such as Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and The Bad News Bears.

In 1976, Wright earned his first Film Editor credits on Burt Brinckerhoff‘s features Acapulco Gold and Dogs. He worked steadily throughout the ’80s, cutting the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie The Running Man before moving into major action fare in the ’90s, which is when his career really began to take off.

Wright received Oscar nominations for editing The Hunt for Red October as well as Speed, and he also cut Die Hard with a Vengeance, Broken Arrow, The Thomas Crown Affair, Last Action Hero, and one of my childhood faves, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.

The 2000s brought blockbusters such as X-Men and The Incredible Hulk, not to mention the sports movies Glory Road and Secretariat, and a little film titled The Passion of the Christ. He’d work with Mel Gibson again just two years later on the director’s masterpiece, Apocalypto. His final project was Randall Wallace‘s drama Heaven Is for Real, which is a good thing, as he gets an automatic trip there for cutting Speed, one of the greatest action movies ever made, and a film surely made even greater by his immeasurable contributions.

On the TV side, Wright was nominated for an Emmy in 1989 for editing My Name Is Bill W., a TV movie about the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous starring James Woods and James Garner. He then won an Emmy two years later for his work on another TV movie — Sarah, Plain and Tall starring Glenn Close and Christopher Walken.

“Many film colleagues will remember John for his quiet encouraging nature, infectious laugh, great sense of humor, and his ever-present generosity of spirit. He leaves behind an incredible legacy of work which has and will continue to inspire the art of film editing,” his colleague, Editor Graeme Clifford, wrote in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter.

Wright is survived by his longtime wife Jane, his daughter Amy, his son Cort, and his grandsons, Edgar, Holden, and Dash.

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