Editor Sally Menke’s body was found by searchers at the bottom of a Beachwood Canyon ravine Tuesday morning, her Lab at her side. She was 56, and had been hiking Monday in L.A.’s extreme heat (which broke the downtown record of 113 degrees Monday, as well as the thermometer recording that record), reports the LAT. I had the pleasure of meeting Menke last year at Lawrence Bender’s Oscar party for Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, which she edited, along with all of Tarantino’s films. It was great fun talking to her about how she and Tarantino debated the merits of whether to divide the film into five chapters or try to weave it into another narrative. Tarantino won that argument.
This is heartbreaking, for Menke’s family (including husband Dean Parisot and two kids), friends, and film collaborators. She was a crucial and valued part of Tarantino’s filmmaking process, and she had many good films left in her. During filming of Tarantino’s movies the crew enjoyed a running gag, saying “hi, Sally” on camera, to let her know they were thinking of her. Here’s an edited sample.
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UPDATE: In his AICN celebration of Menke, AICN’s Mr. Beaks quoted Tarantino from the Death Proof DVD: “I don’t write with anybody. I write by myself. But when it comes to the editing, I write with Sally.” Tarantino has postponed his planned Friday Friar’s Club Roast.
Menke wrote this essay about working with Tarantino; she was nominated for two Oscars, for Basterds and Pulp Fiction. Her other credits include Heaven & Earth (Oliver Stone), Billy Bob Thornton’s All the Pretty Horses and Mulholland Falls (Lee Tamahori).
Menke’s death also underscores the hazards of hiking alone in this kind of heat. I regretted hiking on a fire road in the blazing late morning sun above Mulholland Drive Saturday; at the rest station at the top I refilled my water bottle and took a break in the shade before continuing on and finally decided to turn around much sooner than usual, splashed myself at the water fountain, and headed back to my oven of a car. It took me some time to cool off and recover.
Here’s Tarantino on Menke: