David Brenner, the Oscar-winning film editor who worked regularly with directors Oliver Stone, Roland Emmerich, and Zack Snyder, died suddenly at his home in West Hollywood on Feb. 17. His wife, Amber, confirmed the news to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 59.
Brenner won the Oscar for Best Film Editing for cutting Oliver Stone’s 1989 anti-war drama Born on the Fourth of July. Brenner cut six films for Oliver Stone in all, an ongoing collaboration that also included three other films where Brenner was not the lead film editor. (Brenner was the first assistant editor on Stone’s 1986 Vietnam War film Platoon, the winner of four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Film Editing.)
Brenner had recurring collaborations with other filmmakers as well, editing four films for Roland Emmerich (including 1996’s Independence Day and 2000’s The Patriot), two films for James Mangold and all of the DC Universe films directed by Zack Snyder (including last year’s Zack Snyder’s Justice League, aka The Snyder Cut).
Brenner was born in Hollywood and attended Stanford before breaking into the industry. Early on in his career, he was mentored by film editor Claire Simpson, who won the Oscar for editing Platoon and was nominated again for her work on 2005’s The Constant Gardener.
Brenner served as lead editor on over 20 films, and other notable movies that he edited include 1994’s The River Wild, 2001’s Kate & Leopold, 2008’s Wanted, and 2011’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Brenner had spent the last year working on the Avatar sequels, which was his first collaboration with James Cameron.
In an interview last year with ProVideoCoalition, Brenner described his primary goal as an editor as simply trying to help movies work on their own terms. “No matter what the budget or scale, as the editor, you’re just trying to get the story and characters to work,” Brenner said. “Whether it’s a $200 million action film or a $20 million art house film, you’re still trying to get the movie to play.”
Brenner had been with his wife, Amber, for nearly 20 years, and he is also survived by his three children. If you would like to help Brenner’s family during this difficult time, Avatar producer Jon Landau has organized a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising $100,000.