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by Brian Brooks
September 28, 2010 4:46 AM
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Sally Menke: 1953 - 2010

Oscar-nominated editor Sally Menke at an AMPAS celebration in honor of "Pulp Fiction" in 2008. Photo credit: Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Quentin Tarantino’s longtime film editor, Sally Menke, was discovered dead early this morning near Griffith Park in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times reported that Menke had gone hiking in the morning, and friends alerted police after she failed to come home. Her body was found by searchers in Beachwood Canyon.

Born in Mineola, New York in 1953, Menke graduated from the NYU Film program at the Tisch School of the Arts. Menke served as an editor in the early '90s for "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe," but is best known for her work with Tarantino beginning with "Reservoir Dogs" in 1992, "Pulp Fiction" in 1994 (which earned her an Oscar nomination), "Jackie Brown" in 1997, "Kill Bill" Volumes 1 & 2 in 2003 and 2004, as well as the filmmaker's most recent "Inglourious Basterds," which was her second Academy Award nomination for editing. She also received numerous BAFTA and other nominations and recognitions in the past 15 years.

The L.A. Times updated its report Tuesday morning saying Menke set out around 9 a.m. with a friend for Bronson Canyon near the famed Hollywood sign. Menke's hiking partner returned an hour later, while she and her Labrador retriever continued. People close with Menke contacted authorities around 4p.m. saying that she was missing, and friends and family took part in the search. Menke's body was discovered around 2 a.m. with her dog sitting by her side in a ravine near Green Oak Drive in Bronson Canyon. The Times reported that sources connected with the investigation are focusing on heat being a possible contributing factor in Menke's death, though the inquiry is still ongoing. The mercury shot up to well above 110 degrees in downtown Los Angeles on Monday and the heat is expected to be very high today as well.

Menke was an avid hiker for most of her life. Last year, in a piece she wrote for The Guardian, Menke revealed that she was hiking in Canada on a remote mountain in Banff when she learned that she'd landed her first gig with Tarantino. "I let out a yell that echoed around the mountain," she recalled. Of her extremely close relationship with the "Kill Bill" auteur, Menke wrote: "Quentin is the same now as he was then. He's encyclopedic, passionate, electrifying. We just clicked creatively. Editing is all about intuiting the tone of a scene and you have to chime with the director. It's a rare, intense sort of a relationship and if it ain't broke, you wouldn't want to fix it. We've built up such trust that now he gives me the dailies and I put 'em together and there's little interference."

Watch below for outtakes from Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," in which the cast and crew say "Hi" to Sally.


[indieWIRE invites comments and responses to the passing of Menke below.]

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11 Comments

  • Warren Spencer | September 30, 2010 2:01 AMReply

    What a shame and tragic accident. Editing was so much of a contribution of QT's work

  • Dan Ireland | September 29, 2010 6:57 AMReply

    The best of the best! A sad, sad day for all of us.
    What a beautiful remembrance of the clip above,
    and tells you how she was so dearly loved by everyone.

  • Bob | September 29, 2010 3:30 AMReply

    Goodbye Sally. I loved your work. You will be missed.

  • Deborah Perro | September 29, 2010 1:06 AMReply

    I join with many others in offering this message of condolence for Sally Menke. The Hi Sally video is a beautiful tribute to a talented artist.

  • /k | September 28, 2010 11:44 AMReply

    So long Sally. You will be greatly missed.

  • Luis Loya | September 28, 2010 10:33 AMReply

    This is so hard to believe. My heart is aching now. RIP Sally Menke. You were amazing and the world will miss you greatly.

  • Terry | September 28, 2010 10:26 AMReply

    just breaks my heart to hear of this loss. RIP Sally.

  • Brian A. Kates | September 28, 2010 8:26 AMReply

    Ms. Menke was a brilliant artist. She'll continue to inspire...

  • Edwin Pagan | September 28, 2010 8:12 AMReply

    A tragic loss of an extremely talented artist. Our condolences to her family, friends and collaborators.

  • Ian Mantgani | September 28, 2010 8:07 AMReply

    A great editor, a sad loss.

    I knew the heat and smog were bad in LA, but I didn't realise they were that bad.

    Bye, Sally. :-(

  • Patrick | September 28, 2010 7:45 AMReply

    Bye Sally :(