Terry Rawlings, who received an Oscar nomination for best picture winner Chariots of Fire and edited the Ridley Scott films Alien, Blade Runner and Legend, has died. He was 85.
Rawlings died Tuesday of heart failure at his home in Hertfordshire, England, the Guild of British Film and Television Editors told The Hollywood Reporter.
The London native also cut Barbra Streisand’s and David Fincher’s directorial debuts on Yentl(1983) and Alien 3 (1992), respectively, and worked on Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as James Bond with GoldenEye (1995).
His other work included Michael Winner’s The Sentinel (1977) and Bullseye! (1990); Phillip Noyce’s The Saint (1997); The Fugitive spinoff U.S. Marshals (1998); Entrapment (1999); and Joel Schumacher’s Phantom of the Opera (2004).
In the opening of the sci-fi classic Blade Runner (1982), Rawlings receives a “supervising editor” credit. “I was the only editor, and the reason I had to have that [credit] was I wasn’t a member of the American union then,” he recalled in a 2012 interview.
“To work over in America was very difficult, because of union problems, and I had to work on the film in a little hotel place because I wasn’t allowed at Warner Bros. to cut it there.”
The studio hired Marsha Nakashima as a cover, and she received an “editor” credit at the end of the movie.
Blade Runner is notorious for its multiple versions and changes requested by studio executives after the film underperformed upon its debut.
“When it was first taken to America, it was with no commentary, and it ended with them [Harrison Ford and Sean Young] going through the doors. And when we ran it over there, people were saying, ‘We don’t understand it.’ Nobody understood it to start with, it was so ahead of its time,” explained Rawlings.
A solution was to introduce the now-famous Ford voiceover, and the film’s ending was changed to a happier, more upbeat finale using aerial footage shot from The Shining.
The voiceover was eventually removed in subsequent rereleases after a screening error in a Santa Monica cinema showed the original cut one night.
“I think it’s great when the door closes,” Rawlings said. “You make up your own mind. They’re not going off holding hands in a car, which was dreadful.”
Rawlings’ first partnership with Scott was as dubbing editor on the director’s outstanding 1977 debut drama, The Duellists.
“When Ridley was going to do Alien [released in 1979] I got a call from his office because he wanted me to do the sound,” he said. “I said I didn’t want to do the sound, I wanted to cut it!”
Rawlings met with producers Gordon Carroll and David Giler, who were mightily impressed with his editing of Martin Rosen’s animated Watership Down (1978).
“Oh, Alien was one of the most exciting periods of editing I have ever had, I think, because I was doing this really for the first time on my own, having done [1977’s] The Sentinel,” he said.
“Watership Down wasn’t quite the same. But this, even though it wasn’t a big film when we first started — it was going to be just an ordinary little horror film, or a little space journey film, nothing special — and yet it just developed into this monster, literally!”
Hugh Hudson directed Chariots of Fire (1981), about Olympians Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams at the 1924 Paris Summer Games. Its most famous sequences involve slow-motion running, which Rawlings expertly crafted from thousands of feet of film.
“Well, at that time, you had all these fantastic films with all this wonderful footage of the people running, and we’re basically going to show the same kind of stuff all over again,” he aid. “So I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to sort of show these things like a ballet with these great long dissolves, where they’re just going through one another?’ So I tried that and it worked.”
Vangelis’ iconic score had yet to be written, so Rawlings edited the film with temporary music from the Greek musician’s 1979 album, Opéra sauvage.
“I love the buildup to the hundred meters, when they’re digging in, all that stuff, that’s great,” he said. “What made Vangelis’ music work so well was the contrast between Gilbert & Sullivan and the religious music.”
At its preview screening, the audience stood and roared at the film’s finale.
“And it suddenly dawned on me, what it was all about: It was completely the way the Americans think. If you try hard enough, you succeed, and that’s what they believe in more than anybody, more than we do [in England],” said Rawlings.
The film won four Academy Awards (best picture, original screenplay, costume design and score), but Rawlings lost out on Oscar night to Michael Kahn of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Rawlings was born in London on Nov. 4, 1933, and began his career in the sound department, honing his craft as a dubbing editor on the Peter Sellers film Trial and Error (1962), Bryan Forbes’ The L-Shaped Room (1962) and Ken Russell’s Women in Love (1969), The Music Lovers (1971) and The Devils (1971).
He received an American Cinema Editors career achievement award and five BAFTA nominations across his career — for Women in Love, Isadora (1968), Alien, Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner — but never won.
In interviews, Rawlings often cited Yentl as one of the favorite films he edited.
“I love music. Music is very important to me,” he said. “To work on a musical with [Streisand] was very special. She is fantastic to be with, she is a hard-working person. She’s the only person to sing in the whole picture.”
On Twitter, Streisand wrote that Rawlings “always made me laugh … and I adored his delicious personality. He made the whole experience of editing Yentl such a joy.”
He and his widow, Louise, were married for 59 years. They met on the set of Stanley Donen’s Indiscreet (1958) while she was working in the accounts office and he was an assistant editor.
During a 2014 BAFTA tribute, Fincher said in a prerecorded message that “the best editors are alchemists, and they’re equal parts poet and blacksmith. They can forge something — they make pieces go together that should never work. They can take footage that was intended for one thing and use it to illuminate a whole new idea in a sequence that you maybe never conceived.
“Then, on top of that, if they’re really, really special, they have a way of becoming your best friend. I was very fortunate on my first movie to work with Terry. To this day, it’s an extremely happy memory.”