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HomeCraftsEditingAcademy Award-Winning Back to the Future Editor Arthur Schmidt Dies at 86

Academy Award-Winning Back to the Future Editor Arthur Schmidt Dies at 86

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Arthur Schmidt
Editor Arthur Schmidt (Credit: Academy Awards)

Arthur Schmidt, the editor behind some of the defining popcorn movies of the 20th century, has passed away. Schmidt, who frequently collaborated with director Robert Zemeckis, won two Academy Awards for his work on Forrest Gump and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Throughout his career, the editor crafted a long list of classic films and sequences.

The son of editor Arthur P. Schmidt Sr. (known for Sunset Boulevard), Schmidt began his career as an assistant editor to Dede Allen (Bonnie and Clyde) and Jim Clark (Marathon Man). During the first few years of his career, Schmidt edited films such as Coal Miner’s Daughter, Jericho Mile, and Jaws 2.

“When I began my career as an assistant, I worked on so many bad films that I thought the editor’s main job was to fix everyone else’s mistakes,” he once said. “Now I know there is a lot more to it than that.”

In 1985, he began his work on the Back to the Future trilogy, marking the start of a beautiful relationship with Robert Zemeckis. The duo worked together for almost four decades, collaborating on projects such as Cast Away, Contact, Death Becomes Her, and What Lies Beneath. Schmidt brought joy and inspiration to casual moviegoers, hardcore film nerds, and filmmakers alike, reminding them of the beauty of going to the movie theaters.

“Arthur Schmidt was incredibly talented and a joy to work with,” Zemeckis wrote in a statement to Deadline. “He was a true gentleman and I am honored to have known him and to have created what we did together.”

Schmidt’s accomplishments are both extensive and varied. He displayed range as an editor, demonstrating an eye for adventure, comedy, drama, and suspense. He knew how to craft pure cinematic delight. The editor, who received the American Cinema Editors Career Achievement Award in 2009, also contributed to notable works such as The Birdcage, Addams Family Values, and The Rocketeer.

Throughout his remarkable body of work, the editor of The Last of the Mohicans and Pirates of the Caribbean consistently strived for one common factor – honesty. “It’s just your reaction [to the material], my reaction to the way it all works in a smooth and dramatic or comedic way,” he said, “and that there’s nothing in what I’ve seen that bothers me or jerks me around or manipulates me. That’s one of the things that we editors get accused of is manipulation, and I always hated that term and never felt that that was what I was trying to do. I was always trying to be honest with the material.”

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