‘Eternal Sunshine’ Producer Reveals ‘Chaotic’ Filming Led Original Editor to Have a ‘Nervous Breakdown’

"We had to let her go," producer Anthony Bregman revealed almost 20 years after the film's release.
"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

The original film editor for “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” needed her mind scrubbed clean after suffering from a “nervous breakdown” during the chaotic production, according to producer Anthony Bregman.

Bregman revealed to “Hollywood Gold” podcast host and fellow film producer Daniela Taplin Lundberg (“The Kids Are All Right,” “Honey Boy”) that the unconventional tactics behind the 2004 drama led to an editor (whom he did not name) being let go early in production. Valdís Óskarsdóttir eventually stepped in to finish the cut.

“All that footage went to our editor, a traditional editor, someone who has won Academy Awards and is like a big-time editor. Lucky to get her, but it was not at all like she was used to,” Bregman said. “Because every shot was every set up, the editors’ assistant couldn’t organize the folders for the footage in a traditional way. So the first day’s footage after 10 days had not been cut. We also were like, ‘This is so cool, it looks so good’ but we had no idea if it was cuttable.”

If production continued in the same way on the feature starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, Bregman noted they were estimated to go over budget by almost $1 million just on film.

“Jim and then Kate were both getting really nervous about it and the editor that we had basically had the equivalent of a nervous breakdown and we had to let her go,” Bregman continued. “We had no editor. Jim and Kate at one point, they said, ‘Can you come to Kate’s trailer?’ And they were like, ‘We’re really concerned this movie isn’t going to make any sense.’ And we’re like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And they’re like, ‘Have you seen the scenes?’ And we’re like, ‘Yeah, the dailies are incredible, they’re so good.’ And they’re like, ‘No, no, no. Have you seen the scenes cut together?’ And at that point, we hadn’t seen anything cut together, our editor had had a nervous breakdown, we had no editor because the footage was just so chaotic and crazy.”

Late producer Steve Golin was key to assuring Winslet and Carrey that production could continue.

“[Golin] was masterful at this. He basically said, ‘Look, I’m going to be honest with you.’ And I was like, ‘Oh boy, here’s where the movie falls apart,'” Bregman recalled. “And Steve goes, ‘It’s incredible. The scenes are incredible. They cut together perfectly. We’re making something like we’ve never seen before.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh my god, I’m so relieved to hear that!'”

Editor Valdís Óskarsdóttir went on to win a BAFTA Award for the film, which was directed by Michel Gondry and co-written by Pierre Bismuth. Óskarsdóttir previously told IndieWire that she would never work with director Gondry again.

“He is French, I am Icelandic; we are both stubborn and so it was full of arguments. When it comes to editing, I am really, really stubborn – and if the directors don’t suggest something brilliant, I don’t listen to them,” Óskarsdóttir  said in 2012. “Michel can be very sweet and nice, funny, creative – and then he can be a pain in the ass. But I think that I can be a pain in the ass too – probably more of a pain in the ass than Michel…He isn’t the most patient man I know.”

Óskarsdóttir added of the initial footage from “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “I loved it. I got everything that I needed and more, so I was very happy with the material and that doesn’t happen all the time. Sometimes it was amazing what Michel had done — the effects that he could do with the camera. It was very exciting.”

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