Richard Portman, ‘Star Wars’ Sound Engineer and 11-Time Oscar Nominee, Dies at 82

Star Wars Richard Portman dead
Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox/REX/Shutterstock

Sound engineer Richard Portman, who received 11 Academy Award nominations and won for his work on Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter,” died on Saturday at his home in Tallahassee, Fla. He was 82.

“He was an icon of his craft of motion picture sound re-recording, recognized with the highest honors of his field,” his daughter Jennifer Portman wrote on her Facebook page. “He was eccentric, irreverent, and real.”

Portman worked on nearly 200 movies and mixed the sound for George Lucas’ “Star Wars.”

Portman received two Oscar sound nominations in 1973 for Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” and Michael Ritchie’s “The Candidate.” He was also double-nominated in 1974 for Peter Bogdanovich’s “Paper Moon” and Mike Nichols’ “The Day of the Dolphin.”

Portman received his first nom in 1971 for “Kotch,” directed by Jack Lemmon. He was also up for Oscars for Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein,” Herbert Ross’ “Funny Lady,” Michael Apted’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” and Mark Rydell’s “On Golden Pond” and “The River.”

He collaborated on five films with Robert Altman — “California Split,” “Nashville,” “3 Women,”  “A Wedding,”  and “Quintet.” His other credits include “Little Big Man,” “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” “Harold and Maude,” “The Last Detail,” “Splash,” “L.A. Story,” and “The Pelican Brief.”

Portman joined the faculty at Florida State University as a sound professor in 1995. One of his students was now-Oscar-nominated Barry Jenkins, the writer and director of “Moonlight.”

“Fantastic educator, introduced me to Murch’s ‘Blink of an Eye’ & taught me importance of sound, may he RIP,” Jenkins tweeted on Tuesday.

Portman was a native of Los Angeles, and the son of Clem Portman, whose credits include “King Kong” and “Citizen Kane.” He won an Oscar in 1969 for “Gaily, Gaily.”

A memorial is being planned for the early spring.

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  1. Jef says:

    The true artists of Hollywood, it’s a shame there’s not more attention paid to their creativity and influence. RIP Richard Portman.

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