Tarantino’s editor dies on hike in LA hills

Sally Menke worked with helmer since 'Reservoir Dogs'

Quentin Tarantino’s longtime film editor Sally Menke, who was found dead at the bottom of a ravine near Griffith Park Tuesday, most likely died from heat stroke, said the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office.

Menke, 56, was reported missing by a friend she went hiking with Monday in Griffith Park, but who turned back before her. A nightlong search led police to her body near Bronson Canyon. Her dog was nearby. Temperatures in Los Angeles hit a record-breaking 113 degrees Monday, and coroner’s spokeswoman Lt. Cheryl MacWillie said an autopsy has been scheduled to find the exact cause of death.

Menke was married to director Dean Parisot.

Starting with “Reservoir Dogs,” Menke edited all of Tarantino’s films — “Inglourious Basterds” and “Pulp Fiction,” which both garnered her Oscar noms, “Jackie Brown,” “Kill Bill” volumes 1 and 2 plus the “Death Proof” segment of “Grindhouse.”

A grieving Tarantino postponed his roast at the Friars Club Comedy Film Fest set for Friday in New York.

A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Menke’s first editing credit was for 1990’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

In an interview with the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper last December, Menke recalled that when Tarantino was interviewing editors for “Reservoir Dogs,” she was hiking in Canada and got the call notifying her that she had the job. “I let out a yell that echoed around the mountain,” she was quoted as saying.

“Our style is to mimic, not homage, but it’s all about recontextualizing the film language to make it fresh within the new genre,” she said of her work with Tarantino.

She said she appreciated how the filmmaker rented cottages to use as editing suites: “It’s very civilized and enabled me to work through both my pregnancies. Yes, my babies had Tarantino movies played to them in the womb, but they seem to have come out OK.”

Variety’s review of “Pulp Fiction” noted, “Sally Menke’s editing reps the definition of precision.”

Menke said of “Basterds,” “It’s all about tension, so you follow the emotional arc of a character through a scene, even if, as in the opening of ‘Inglourious Basterds,’ they’re just pouring a glass of milk or stuffing their pipe. We’re very proud of that scene — it might be the best thing we’ve ever done.”

Menke was a member of American Cinema Editors, whose prexy Randy Roberts cited “Kill Bill” and “Inglourious Basterds,” saying, “The pacing, the mixture of drama and comedy is really hard to pull off.”

Harry Miller, ACE Technology Committee and board member, said, “Sally, through her work and her association with Quentin Tarantino, brought a lot of notice to the art and craft of filmmaking. It’s not that ‘Pulp Fiction’ has some splashy, MTV-style fast-cutting sequences. The thing about that movie is it is structurally so intelligent and so interesting, it takes someone like an editor of Sally’s quality to guide Quentin Tarantino and make a movie that good.”

Besides Tarantino’s films, Menke edited features including Lee Tamahori’s “Mulholland Falls,” Billy Bob Thornton’s “All the Pretty Horses” and most recently Michael Lander’s “Peacock.”

Survivors include her husband and two children.

(David S. Cohen contributed to this report.)

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