Arthur Schmidt, Film Editor of ‘Forrest Gump’ and ‘Back to the Future’ Trilogy, Dies at 86

The longtime Robert Zemeckis collaborator won two Oscars, for the 1994 Tom Hanks classic and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

Arthur Schmidt
Getty Images

Arthur Schmidt, 2-time Academy Award-winning editor and longtime collaborator of Robert Zemeckis, died this past Saturday at the age of 86, his brother Ron announced.

Schmidt’s four-decade career includes some of the biggest films of the late 20th Century, including Zemeckis’ “Back to the Future” trilogy, “Contact” and “Cast Away.” He also received his two Oscars for “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and “Forrest Gump,” the latter of which won Best Picture.

Born in Los Angeles, Schmidt’s career followed in the footsteps of his father, Arthur P. Schmidt, who also had a decorated editing career with films like “Ace in the Hole,” “Sabrina,” “Some Like It Hot,” and Billy Wilder’s legendary noir “Sunset Boulevard.”

The younger Schmidt’s career didn’t start until after his father’s death in 1965, working as an apprentice and assistant editor throughout the 1970s including on films like “Jaws 2.” His big breakthrough came in 1979 with Michael Mann’s TV film “The Jericho Mile,” winning an Emmy for his editing work along with an Eddie Award from American Cinema Editors (ACE).

Just a year later, Schmidt earned his first Oscar nomination with Michael Apted’s “The Coal Miner’s Daughter” starring Sissy Spacek as country music star Loretta Lynn. Then, in 1985, Schmidt’s career reached a new level when his partnership with Robert Zemeckis began with “Back to the Future,” the first of ten films the duo would work on together.

Along with his Oscar-winning work for “Roger Rabbit” and “Gump,” Schmidt’s early 90s work included films like the Joe Johnston cult classic “The Rocketeer,” Michael Mann’s “The Last of the Mohicans,” and Barry Sonnenfield’s “Addams Family Values.”

One of Schmidt’s final projects before his retirement in 2005 was Gore Verbinski’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” getting hired midway through the post-production process for polish work.

In 2009, Zemeckis presented Schmidt with the ACE Career Achievement Award. Three years later, Zemeckis convinced Schmidt to come out of retirement to lend his expertise on Zemeckis’ aerial drama “Flight” starring Denzel Washington, a film that would be Schmidt’s final project.

“I was very lucky to have worked with great directors who gave me some amazing film to work with. But success didn’t come quickly,” Schmidt told the Motion Picture Editors Guild in a 2014 interview.

“Along the way, I turned down films, left films, and made choices that were very personal to me,” he added. “People told me that was unprofessional, that word would get around and I’d never work in this town again. Sometimes I was out of work for three or four months, but then a film would come along that was so good it was worth taking those chances.”