Sally Menke, the unmatched editor of every one of Quentin Tarantino’s movies, passed away this morning while hiking in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. A mere 56 years old, it is not known exactly what the cause of death is at this time, though the LA Times has word that she was “found at the bottom of a ravine near the 5600 block of Green Oak Drive.” The record heat in LA has been causing a great deal of trouble, and could very well be related to the incident, but again, nothing is known for sure.
This is a crushing blow to film fans, as anyone familiar with the Quentin Tarantino’s filmmaking process is aware that Sally Menke was more than just a background employee, but rather an extremely important collaborator that was directly responsible for shaping so many films that we love.
“The final cut of the movie is the last draft of the script- it’s the stuff that needs to be in there. I don’t write with anybody, I write by myself, but when it comes to the editing, I write with Sally. And it’s the true epitome of a collaboration because I don’t remember what was her idea, what was my idea, we’re just right there together.”
“When I was doing my first movie, the only thing I knew is I wanted a female editor, because I just felt that a female editor would be more nurturing to the movie and to me. They wouldn’t be trying to win their way, just to win their way. They wouldn’t be trying to shove their agenda or win their battles with me, they would be nurturing me through this process.”
Menke has done brilliant editing work that brought unbearable tension to the quietest scenes of dialogue, and exhilarating kinetic energy to the most frenetic action scenes. She will be missed, and it is safe to say that Tarantino’s films will never be the same.
Some quotes from Sally…
“It’s all for telling the story. And all you want to do is get the person emotionally invested in the story- it becomes this invisible craft.”
“I think editors play a big role with directors in giving them support. Making them feel like they can look at something that may have trouble or problems and be comfortable enough that they can approach those problems… In the beginning he really doesn’t guide me- I put together what I think he wants and pretty much we’ve worked together so long I can judge what he would want.”
The loss of Sally Menke is a sadness beyond losing a partner to a favorite filmmaker though- she is survived by her husband Aldo Luis Parisot and the rest of her family. She was known for being a sweet woman, and it is a famous tradition on Tarantino’s sets to periodically send a message to Sally at the end of takes, known as “Hey Sally” takes. You can see a montage of those takes from the Death Proof set in the video below.
Sally’s insight into the editing process was also a valuable part of one of my favorite filmmaking documentaries, The Cutting Edge. Her most recent work, Inglourious Basterds netted her a well-deserved Academy Award nomination to match the one she received for editing Pulp Fiction. It should also put a smile on your face that she edited Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, before partnering with Tarantino.
I’ll update this article with more information as it become available. Our thoughts are with Sally’s surviving family and friends.
UPDATE: Edgar Wright has shared his thoughts on meeting Sally and being inspired by her work right here.