A state department job rejection and a well-timed classified ad jumpstarted the 50-year-long movie career of film editor Thelma Schoonmaker ’61. Now, she has received her eighth Oscar nomination for her work on the Netflix film The Irishman.
Schoonmaker is best known for being one of director Martin Scorsese’s most steadfast contributors, beginning with one of his first films Who’s That Knocking at My Door in 1967. The pair met while taking a six-week film course at New York University after her graduation from Cornell.
She told The Sun in 1995 that she and Scorsese are “almost like one mind in the editing room,” and has edited every Scorsese film since Raging Bull.
Behind only Michael Kahn, she is the second most-nominated film editor in Oscars history with eight nominations, winning three Oscars for her work on Raging Bull, The Aviator and The Departed, all Scorsese films.
Schoonmaker’s work on The Irishman, which is directed by Scorsese, will compete against the film editors of Ford v. Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Joker and Parasite.
Featuring three staples of the gangster movie genre, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino, The Irishman tells the story of Frank Sheeran, a World War II veteran who recounts his time as a hitman for a crime syndicate with ties to Jimmy Hoffa’s Teamster Union.
Born in Algiers, Algeria in 1940, Schoonmaker studied Russian and government at Cornell, before pursuing a career in international relations. After a change of course, Schoonmaker found herself in a career in movies.
Returning to Cornell in 2005, Schoonmaker reflected on her career in filmmaking and collaborations with Scorsese. There, she told a story about her first meeting with the director, when she found him struggling with a film recut.
“I, because of this terrible job that I had, knew how to cut negative,” she said. “If I had missed that major connection, I might have become a housewife at the time.”