Editor of The Departed
“I'm not a person who believes in the great difference between women and men as editors. But I do think that quality is key. We're very good at organizing and discipline and patience, and patience is 50 per cent of editing. You have to keep banging away at something until you get it to work. I think women are maybe better at that.” Thelma Schoonmaker
Thelma Schoonmaker is a three time Academy Award winning film editor who is known for her long running partnership with director Martin Scorsese. She won her Oscars for “Raging Bull” (1980), “The Aviator” (2004) and “The Departed” (2006) as well as three Oscar nominations for “Woodstock” (1970), on which she and Scorsese served as editorial supervisor, though only Schoonmaker was cited in the nomination, “Goodfellas” (1990) and “Gangs of New York” (2002). In 2010, Schoonmaker was awarded with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards. She was the recipient of the Below-The-Line Award at the 1992 Gotham Awards.
Schoonmaker was married to director Michael Powell from 1984 until his death in 1990.
Childhood and Family:
Thelma Schoonmaker was born on January 3, 1940, in Algiers, Algeria, to American expatriates. Her father Bertram was hired as a clerical stuff by the Standard Oil Company and worked overseas. After war broke out in Algeria, she and her family moved to Aruba, where her mother ran a nursery school. She stayed there until age 15 and then moved to the Unites States, where her family settled in New Jersey. With the hope of becoming a diplomat, Thelma enrolled at Cornell University in 1957, where she majored in Political Science and Russian, and completed her education in 1961. After graduating, she started taking State Department tests in order to apply for positions in the U.S. government. However, she was deterred for being too idealistic. Following this, she decided to make a career shift and began attending a summer program at New York University, where she took an editing course. It was there that she met future collaborator Martin Scorsese.
On May 19, 1984, Thelma was married to English film director Michael Powell. It was Scorsese who introducer her to her husband. The couple would remain together until Powell's death on February 19, 1990 due to cancer.
An aspiring diplomat, Thelma Schoonmaker took her first film job in New York when she worked for an old hack who was butchering the films of Federico Fellini and François Truffaut for television broadcast. While taking a six week course in filmmaking at New York University, she was asked by her professor to help student director Martin Scorsese with problems on his film. The two quickly built a close working relationship that would extend for a number of years.
Schoonmaker received her first credit as a film editor in 1966 for “Passages from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake,” a drama directed by Mary Ellen Bute, which she edited with Mary Ellen Bute, Yoshio Kishi, Catherine Pichonnier and Paul Ronder. Her professional partnership with Scorsese began in the following year when she edited the 1967 drama “Who's That Knocking at My Door,” which was the directorial debut of Scorsese. Starring Harvey Keitel and Zina Bethune, the film received positive reviews from critics. She resurfaced in 1969 when she co-edited “The Virgin President,” a comedy film directed and co-written by Graeme Ferguson and starring Severn Darden, Richard Neuweiler and Andrew Duncana.
In 1970, Schoonmaker reunited with Scorsese when the two served as editorial supervisor on the influential music festival documentary “Woodstock,” which was directed by Michael Wadleigh. The film brought Schoonmaker her first Academy Award nomination for Best Film Editing in 1971. She and Scorsese also served as assistant directors. The same year, she also served as editor on Scorsese's documentary film, “Street Scenes.”
Despite her apparent skill and talent, Schoonmaker failed to join the Motion Picture Editors Guild at that time, and then denied ever working with Scorsese, although the director kept asking for her services. Schoonmaker instead chose to work on various projects as a non union editor for about a decade. During this period, she did a documentary on the American Revolution that was never completed, a public TV show on the Supreme Court, a CBS special documentary of a Paul McCartney tour, and a mountaineering piece that was also not completed but did receive screenings, among other gigs.
Eventually, Schoonmaker could joined the film editors union in
1980, and after serving as a special consultant on 1979's “The
Kids Are Alright,”a documentary about the classic rock super
group The Who, which was written and helmed by Jeff Stein, she
reunited with Scorsese for the biographical sports drama film “Raging
Bull” (1980), which was based on the Jake La Motta memoir
“Raging Bull: My Story.” Starring Robert De Niro as
American world middleweight champion boxer Jake LaMotta, the film
earned mixed reviews upon its release due to its violent content, but
went on to gain a high critical reputation. The film was nominated
for eight Oscars, including Best Picture, and won two awards in the
categories of Best Actor in a Leading Role for De Niro and Best Film
Editing for Schoonmaker. She also picked up American Cinema Editors's
1981 Eddie Award for Best Edited Feature Film, a 1982 BAFTA Film for
Best Editing and a 2006 DVDX Award for Best Audio Commentary for her
In 1983, Schoonmaker cut Scorsese's dark comedy, “The King of Comedy,” starring Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis. The film brought her a BAFTA Film nomination for Best Editing. She did the same duty for Scorsese's films “ After Hours” (1985), “The Color of Money” (1986), and “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988), which was adapted from the Nikos Kazantzakis controversial 1953 novel of the same name. She also edited the Michael Jackson music video “Bad” (1987) and “New York Stories” (1989) segment “Life Lessons.”
After working on the documentary short “Made in Milan” (1990), Schoonmaker received her next Oscar nomination for editing the film adaptation of the Nicholas Pilegg non fiction book “Wiseguy,” “Goodfellas” (1990), which was directed and co-written by Scorsese. The film also brought her a BAFTA Film for Best Editing and an Eddie nomination for Best Edited Feature Film. She next cut Scorsese's thriller film, “Cape Fear” (1991), from which she netted a BAFTA Film nomination, the film adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel, “The Age of Innocence” (1993), which was co-written and directed by Scorsese and starred Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder, and Scorsese's crime/drama film, “Casino” (1995), where she was nominated for an Eddie in the category of Best Edited Feature Film for her work.
In 1996, Schoonmaker served as supervising editor on Allison Anders' “Grace of My Heart,” on which Scorsese served as an executive producer. The next year, she edited the biopic of the Dalai Lama, “Kundun” (1997), which performed poorly at the box office despite received mostly positive reviews from critics. After “Kundun,” she reunited with Scorsese again on the film adaptation of Joe Connelly's novel, “Bringing Out the Dead” (1999), which marked another box office flop for Scorsese. 1999 also saw her edit “My Voyage to Italy,” a documentary chronicling the history of Italian cinema.
Following many years of absence, Schoonmaker returned to Academy Award with her work on “Gangs of New York” (2002), Scorsese's epic period piece that followed the Irish mob in 1860’s Manhattan. The film, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis and Cameron Diaz, amassed a total of 10 Oscar nominations, including one Best Film Editing for Schoonmaker, among other awards and nominations. The film was also a success at the box office. Apart from her Oscar nomination, Schoonmaker also received an Eddie Award, a Golden Satellite Award and a BAFTA Film nomination for her work.
In 2003, Schoonmaker had a brief stint on the small screen when she cut the TV special “ AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Robert De Niro,” from which shared a 2004 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special. She returned to the big screen with “The Aviator” (2004), Scorsese's critically acclaimed biopic of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). For her work in the film, she won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Achievement in Film Editing, an Eddie for Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic, Las Vegas Film Critics Society's Sierra Award for Best Editing, a BAFTA Film nomination for Best Editing, an Online Film Critics Society nomination for Best Editing and a Golden Satellite nomination for Best Editing.
Schoonmaker picked up her third Academy Award for her work on Scorsese's crime/thriller movie, “The Departed” (2006), which is a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film “Infernal Affairs.” The film also earned her an Eddie Award, a Sierra Award, a Phoenix Film Critics Society Award, a BAFTA Film nomination, and an Online Film Critics Society nomination.
After editing the short film “The Key to Reserva” (2007), Schoonmaker worked on Scorsese's psychological thriller, “Shutter Island” (2010), which is based on Dennis Lehane's 2003 novel of the same name. She netted a Sierra Award nomination, a Phoenix Film Critics Society nomination and a Satellite nomination for her work on the film.
Schoonmaker also works with Scorsese in the director's new film, “Hugo,” which is adapted from Brian Selznick's novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” The film is set to be released in the US on November 23, 2011.
Schoonmaker is scheduled to be an editor in the upcoming films “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” (2013) and “Sinatra” (2013), directed by Scorsese.
Las Vegas Film Critics Society : Lifetime Achievement Award, 2010
American Cinema Editors: Eddie, Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic, “The Departed,” 2007
Oscar: Best Achievement in Film Editing, “The Departed,” 2007
DVDX: Best Audio Commentary (New for DVD), “Raging Bull,” 2006
Las Vegas Film Critics Society : Sierra Award, Best Film Editing, “The Departed,” 2006
Phoenix Film Critics Society (PFCS): Best Film Editing, “The Departed,” 2006
American Cinema Editors: Eddie, Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic, “The Aviator,” 2005
Oscar: Best Achievement in Film Editing, “The Aviator,” 2005
Las Vegas Film Critics Society: Sierra Award, Best Editing, “The Aviator,” 2005
American Cinema Editors: Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic, “Gangs of New York,” 2003
Satellite: Golden Satellite Award, Best Film Editing, “Gangs of New York,” 2003
Hollywood Film Festival: Hollywood Film Award, Outstanding Achievement in Editing, 2000
Gotham : Below-The-Line Award, 1992
BAFTA Film: Best Editing, “Goodfellas,” 1991
BAFTA Film: Best Editing, “Raging Bull,” 1982
American Cinema Editors: Eddie, Best Edited Feature Film, “Raging Bull,” 1981
Oscar: Best Film Editing, “Raging Bull,” 1981