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Oscar-Winning Editor and Zurich Film Fest Judge Pietro Scalia Dishes on 'Prometheus,' 'Gladiator' and Winning Robin Williams His Oscar

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire September 26, 2012 at 8:48AM

Two-time Academy Award-winner Pietro Scalia, the editor best known as Ridley Scott's right-hand man on "Gladiator," "Prometheus," "Black Hawk Down" and many others, is planted in the Swiss city of Zurich for the week to fulfill his duties as a member of the annual film festival's international jury.

20th Century Fox "Prometheus"

You and Ridley have collaborated countless times over the years. What makes you two click?

For many directors, the relationship with the editor is important. Ultimately, you just have to get along and feel comfortable spending a lot of hours together. The thing is, the relationship with me and Ridley, it’s one of trust and creative freedom, in the sense that he leaves me with that. He knows that’s what I need – in terms of music, in choices of takes. I don’t fall in love with things I do, but I also have very strong opinions about certain things. He values a very honest and direct approach. It was the same thing with Oliver. You have to be honest and straight with the material. But ultimately you have to have a voice or a point of view. I mean yes, you’re there to implement the vision of the film, but at the same time you have to contribute. That’s what Ridley expects of his collaborators. You’re not just there to execute commands, you’re there to contribute on a creative level.

READ MORE: Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon Reveal What Bothers Them About the Oscars at the Zurich Film Festival

I tend to like things that are not perfect aesthetically. Ridley also sees that a lot. Imperfections are good things. Mistakes with actors are also good things. I always look for those things that are imperfect, that are not too thought out.

Have you ever had an actor approach you, unhappy with how you edited their performance?

"Good Will Hunting"
Miramax "Good Will Hunting"

One of the funny things was that on “Good Will Hunting,” with Robin Williams’ performance, the thing was, Gus [Van Sant] liked a lot of the improvisational parts of the movie. He just let them change the lines as they went along. Robin’s a great actor, both comedic and dramatic, but he tended to ask for more takes. I wasn’t sure why Gus was letting him do so many takes -- he was already great in the first two or three takes. So my whole performance was lifted from the earlier takes, where he was not certain about his character, where he was finding, trying new things. As an actor, the more he became comfortable with the lines and the choreography, the more the lines became mechanical. You lose that early freshness, that insecurity, that fear.

READ MORE: Emotional Love and Modern Tragedy: 8 Insights From Oscar-Winning Iranian Filmmaker Asghar Farhadi at the Zurich Film Fest

When we screened it for him in San Francisco, he came up to me and said, “You did a really good job.” I said, “Thanks.” But he kept saying, “No, really, you did a really, really good job.” He was completely surprised about the performance he saw because it wasn’t what he expected. Cut to the Oscars, he wins Best Supporting Actor, and he writes me a letter saying, “Thanks, you do the kindest cut.”

How is Ridley's “The Counselor” coming along, following the passing of his brother, Tony?

It’s going good. We had the tragedy that happened right in the middle of the shoot. Three weeks in, we stopped for two weeks. It’s been a shock and hard for everybody. I knew Tony well. I hadn’t spoken to Ridley in a while. He came back after two weeks and there wasn’t much to say. He’s gone through a really hellish situation, I can’t even imagine his pain. I hadn’t seen him or spoken to him; I gave him a hug, and I could see he was getting emotional – a good hug. I said, “How are you doing?” And he said, “Just one day at a time.” I think it was good for him to get his mind off of that and just go back into the business of making a movie. He got right back into it – it takes your mind off it. But you can see the grief. It’s there.

This article is related to: Interviews, Prometheus, The Counselor, Ridley Scott, Oliver Stone, Zurich Film Festival, Festivals, Pietro Scalia

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