Hollywood Film Editor Sally Menke Dies In L.A. Film editor Sally Menke, who edited all of Quentin Tarantino's movies, died in Los Angeles this week at age 56 while walking her dog in 113-degree heat. Tarantino has been quoted as saying he has always considered Menke a vital part of the "final draft" process. For more on Menke, NPR's Melissa Block talks to another longtime Tarantino collaborator, film producer Lawrence Bender.
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Hollywood Film Editor Sally Menke Dies In L.A.

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Hollywood Film Editor Sally Menke Dies In L.A.

Hollywood Film Editor Sally Menke Dies In L.A.

Hollywood Film Editor Sally Menke Dies In L.A.

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/130218938/130222516" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Film editor Sally Menke, who edited all of Quentin Tarantino's movies, died in Los Angeles this week at age 56 while walking her dog in 113-degree heat. Tarantino has been quoted as saying he has always considered Menke a vital part of the "final draft" process. For more on Menke, NPR's Melissa Block talks to another longtime Tarantino collaborator, film producer Lawrence Bender.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This week, the movie industry had lost not one but two great talents. Yesterday, editor Sally Menke was found dead after hiking in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. She was 56. Menke is best known for editing all of director Quentin Tarantino's films, from his low-budget crime thriller "Reservoir Dogs" to last year's "Inglourious Basterds."

On the DVD for the film "Death Proof," Tarantino explained their chemistry.

Mr. QUENTIN TARANTINO (Movie Director): 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, I guess, of a collaboration because I don't remember what was her idea, what was my idea. We're just right there, together.

BLOCK: Earlier today, I spoke with another longtime Tarantino collaborator -producer Lawrence Bender - about Sally Menke.

Mr. LAWRENCE BENDER (Producer): I'll never forget the first time we met Sally back in '91 when Sally came in to meet with Quentin on "Reservoir Dogs," and it wasn't one of these long deliberations. Quentin met her and said that's the gal. That's my gal. And, you know, we've known each other for 20 years now.

BLOCK: What do you think he was seeing in her from the very start that made him say that, that's my gal?

Mr. BENDER: I think it's a combination of two main factors. One was just her personality. There's a warmth and genuineness, something that makes you really feel really comfortable. And that's a very nice quality because you're going to be in that dark room for hours and hours, week after week, and it's just the two of you, so you want to be with someone you like.

And number two, she had a great combination of things that she had edited, some of them were action-oriented and some of them were character-oriented. And Quentin's stuff is kind of that combination of, you know, you need someone to really do well with kind of more action-y stuff and obviously you play characters. And so she was just the one.

BLOCK: And if you think about Sally Menke's sort of vision or style as an editor, what do you think set her apart?

Mr. BENDER: She's just a real storyteller. I mean, one of the things when you look at Quentin's movies and you look at the great characters that he has and, you know, look at Christoph Waltz, or Robert Forster in "Jackie Brown," or John Travolta in "Pulp Fiction" or Sam Jackson, whatever, it's almost like there's not one bad performance. So there's no question that Sally understands performance, character, and was really able to help craft those performances that we all grew to love.

BLOCK: Can you think of a particular scene from a Quentin Tarantino film that really highlights Sally Menke, that would look like a different movie entirely if it weren't for her?

Mr. BENDER: You know what, that's a good question. And I understand why you're asking. It's just really impossible to say that because, you know, they started out together. It's just impossible to even know that because those two -everything that they create in the editing room, they created together. There's been nothing created without Sally.

BLOCK: There is one other really sweet and funny sort of tribute to Sally Menke which is captured on film. Quentin Tarantino had a habit of asking his actors to say hi to her as they were filming, especially when there was a blooper or a goof. Let's listen to some of that.

(Soundbite of "Death Proof's" Hi Sallys)

Mr. TARANTINO: Look into the camera and tell my lonely editor stuck in Los Angeles hello. Her name is Sally.

Ms. SYDNEY POITIER (Actor): Hello, Sally.

Ms. JORDAN LADD (Actor): Hello, Sally.

Mr. KURT RUSSELL (Actor): Hi, Sally. How's it going?

BLOCK: Lots of hi Sallys captured on film.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BENDER: You know, that's how much we love Sally, because she's the one person of this, you know, such an important person, but we're out shooting, she's not there with us. She's in the edit room, cutting stuff together. We're shooting. So just to let her know that she is there with us, Quentin always does these hello Sallys, we call them. And everyone gets into it in all the movies. It's been - it's always a lot of fun.

BLOCK: And hard to think about in the past tense, I know.

Mr. BENDER: Yeah, yeah.

BLOCK: Well, Lawrence Bender, thanks very much for talking with us about Sally Menke.

Mr. BENDER: My pleasure.

BLOCK: That's producer Lawrence Bender remembering Sally Menke, the editor of all of Quentin Tarantino's movies. Sally Menke was found dead yesterday in Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of "Inglourious Basterds'" Hi Sallys)

Unidentified Woman #1: Roll A300, take one. Hi, Sally.

Mr. MIKE MYERS (Actor): You'll be dropping the box about 24 kilometers outside of Paris. The Basterds will be waiting for you. So close. Hello, Sally.

Unidentified Woman #2: Hey, Sally.

Unidentified Woman #3: Hello, Sally.

Unidentified Woman #4: Hello.

Unidentified Woman #3: Hello, Sally.

Unidentified Man #1: Say hi to Sally.

Unidentified Man #2: Hi, Sally.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DENIS MENOCHET (Actor): You think Sally's (unintelligible)? Hi, Sally.

Mr. MYERS: Sally, how are you? Good? A little lonely, are you? Mike says hello.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song, "Miserlou")

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