Anne V. Coates, Oscar-Winning ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ Film Editor, Dies at 92
When it comes to a great film scene, one that leaves an imprint on not only us as audiences, but on the industry itself, we’re often quick to credit the director, maybe even cinematographer. But what about the film editors? Five-time Oscar nominee and winner for Lawrence of Arabia Anne V. Coates was one of those legendary editors, and as BAFTA has revealed, she passed away on Tuesday. She was 92 years old.
BAFTA, which nominated Coates for her work four times and honored her with a BAFTA Fellowship in 2007, tweeted the news Wednesday morning. “We’re so sad to learn that British film editor Anne V. Coates has died.” According to The Hollywood Reporter, script supervisor Angela Allen (Ronin, Reindeer Games) confirmed that Coates died Tuesday at the Motion Picture Hospital in Woodland Hills, California.
The British editor is most celebrated for her work on Lawrence of Arabia, which won her an Academy Award for Best Film Editing at the 1963 ceremony. She was nominated four more times for Becket, The Elephant Man, In the Line of Fire and Out of Sight, and received an honorary award from the Academy in 2017. Her other notable credits include Erin Brockovich, 1974’s Murder on the Orient Express, Unfaithful, The Golden Compass, and Fifty Shades of Grey.
While her six decade-long career was an impressive one – not to mention one that required her to switch from film to digital mid-way through – there’s one singular image in the collective Hollywood memory that sums up just how phenomenal and influential her work was. You hear about it in film class, or if you’re like me, your mom sat you down in front of the TV and told you that if you care about movies, you better watch this scene. You know the one: the match cut in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. It’s a brilliant moment that reminds us of the art of film editing, cutting between Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence blowing out the match and the slowly sun rising across the desert landscape.
But that’s not all the British editor left us with. She worked on a handful of steamy romance dramas, and most notably gave us one of the most inventive sex scenes in recent memory. In Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, which Coates had to learn Avid for, Coates created an iconic achronological sex scene. The moment cut between Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney’s flirtatious bar banter with the undressing and lovemaking that resulted in their hotel room soon after. How perfect, to slowly dole out the streamiest bits amongst the percolating tension brewing between two people who can’t wait to get their hands on each other.
While Coates began her career during an era where women film editors were especially prominent in Hollywood, among the likes of Thelma Schoonmaker and Dede Allen, she also watched as her industry eventually became more dominated by men. “I have thought about this,” she recounted in a Los Angeles Times interview in 2016. “Did the men squeeze them out, as the job became more important and better paid? Editors weren’t that important in those early days.” That may have been the case, but even with Coates gone, her incredible and influential work won’t soon be forgotten.