Arthur Schmidt, the go-to film editor of Robert Zemeckis and two-time Oscar winner for his work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Forrest Gump, died on Saturday at this home in Santa Barbara. He was 86.
"Arthur Schmidt was incredibly talented and a joy to work with," Zemeckis said in a statement. "He was a true gentleman, and I am honored to have known him and to have created what we did together."
Born in Los Angeles on June 17, 1937, Schmidt was the son of film editor, Arthur P. Schmidt. The senior Schmidt was known for his collaborations with Billy Wilder throughout the 1950s, himself earning two Oscar nominations for editing Sunset Blvd. (1950) and Sayonara (1957). The younger Schmidt was initially dissuaded from pursuing film editing, until he saw his father's work on Sunset Blvd. He made his own feature editing debut on 1977's The Last Remake of Beau Geste.
Schmidt earned his first Oscar nomination in 1981 for Coal Miner's Daughter, director Michael Apted's Loretta Lynn biopic. He later reunited with Apted for 1984's Firstborn. But Schmidt is best remembered for his decades-long collaboration with Zemeckis, which began with 1985's Back to the Future.
The film editor won his first Oscar in 1989 for Zemeckis' Who Framed Roger Rabbit. "Well, this is really incredible," he said onstage at the 61st Academy Awards. "I'd like to thank a terrific team of incredibly talented collaborators who made an enormous contribution to this. I'd especially like to thank Bob Zemeckis for his brilliant direction. It was his vision, his patience and his huge talent that made Roger happen. And he made this happen."
Schmidt won his second Oscar in 1995 for Forrest Gump, which was also helmed by Zemeckis. (The film won six total Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.) "Forrest would have known what to say. He probably just would've said, 'Well, okay,' and let it go at that," Schmidt said in his acceptance speech. "But I have a few more little things to say."
"When you're on the receiving end of the work of so many gifted collaborators, you get to come up here and get something like this. And I have to thank them all for making this and Gump happen. Especially Bob Zemeckis, who stretches himself and the medium of film every time he goes out and makes a film. And in so doing he stretches all of us who have the challenge and the fun and the excitement and the pleasure of working with his amazing talent. Thank you, Bob."
In total, Schmidt would edit nine of Zemeckis' films: Back to the Future (1985), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Back to the Future Part II (1989), Back to the Future Part III (1990), Death Becomes Her (1992), Forrest Gump (1994), Contact (1997), What Lies Beneath (2000), and Cast Away (2000). He was also brought out of retirement to serve as an additional editor on 2012's Flight.
Outside of his work with Zemeckis, Schmidt was responsible for cutting beloved films such as The Last of the Mohicans (1992), Addams Family Values (1993), The Birdcage (1996), and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003).