‘Sully’ Editor Cuts First Feature Alongside Clint Eastwood

Blu Murray wanted to be an athlete, but you could say that editing was in his genes. In college, Murray, whose father is Alan Robert Murray, a two-time Oscar-winning supervising sound editor, had his heart set on the soccer pitch, but now, 15 years later, he’s getting his kicks in the editing suite. He has just finished cutting his first feature, “Sully,” alongside director Clint Eastwood. His dad worked on multiple Eastwood pics, the first being 1980’s “Bronco Billy.”

“I always loved movies growing up,” Murray says. “My dad would share his work with us, and when I landed a job as a production assistant in sound, I fell in love with the filmmaking process and all the hard work it takes to make something.”

But while a family connection allowed Murray’s career to take off, it was his talent that landed him “Sully.”

“I’ve been an assistant on Clint’s films for 11 years. I was cutting a birthday video he shot for someone, and he came up to me and said, ‘You know, I’m going to get a project going and you’re going to be the guy.’ ”

“Sully,” released earlier this month by Warner Bros., follows the true story of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who landed his crippled airliner safely on the Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009, saving all 150 passengers and five crew members on board. Despite Sullenberger being portrayed as a hero in the press, an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board makes the pilot second-guess himself, taking a toll on his career and his personal life.

“I wanted to read as much as I could about Sully in order to really understand him as a person,” says the 35-year-old editor. “My job is to put the most powerful moments in the movie, but I wanted to keep in mind what the real guy went through. He was so stoic through it all.”

Both Tom Hanks, who plays Sullenberger, and Aaron Eckhart, who portrays co-pilot Jeff Skiles, made finding those powerful moments easier.

“There wasn’t one take I couldn’t use from Tom,” Murray says. And Eckhart was so invested in the role that every time he felt like he didn’t nail the take he wanted to do it again. There wasn’t a lot I needed to figure out. The acting was tremendous.”

The pacing of the film was more of a challenge. Not only does the timeline jump around within various parts of the fateful day and the days that followed, but the events are seen from many different viewpoints — Sullenberger’s and Skiles’, as well as those of the flight attendants and many others on the plane.

Malpaso Mixers
Clint Eastwood likes working with a familiar ensemble of creatives for his films —including Alan Robert Murray and his son, Blu Murray.
29 Films directed by Eastwood on which Alan Robert Murray has collaborated (24 as supervising sound editor)
8 Alan’s Oscar nominations (including four for Eastwood films)
2 Alan’s Oscar wins (“American Sniper,” “Letters From Iwo Jima”)
14 Eastwood films on which Blu Murray has worked

“[Screenwriter] Todd Komarnicki wrote these really nice transitions that took you into the past and back, or over to the passengers,” Murray says. “As a director, Clint likes things to happen organically on set. He never wants it to feel like you’re watching a movie. So instead of the transitions, he captured these moments on Sully’s face — these slight camera push-ins or moments when the camera operator hung on a little longer. We ended up using those as a way to move the audience between scenes.”

Variety chief film critic Owen Gleiberman notes that the film “runs an efficient 96 minutes, in Eastwood’s typical no-fat style” as it “juggles the script’s odd chronology-bending structure.”

For the first time in his career, Alan Murray, who served as supervising sound editor on the film, heard creative pitches on the mixing stage from his son.

“I’m proud of him,” his father says. “Sound can be really subjective, so sitting there listening to his thoughts and criticism was quite the experience. I think all his previous work in sound helped his transition into picture [editing]. He knows both worlds. For some people it can be overwhelming when coming to the mix stage, but he was able to focus on what he wanted to bring to the soundtrack.”

Murray Sr. has not only opened the door for Blu, but also for his other son, Kevin, who was the second assistant editor on “Sully,” and for his daughter, Hailey, who also works in post-production.

Blu is quick to credit his picture-cutting team — both first assistant Christine Kim and his brother — as well as Eastwood himself, who has a reputation as a mentor.

“Clint, producer Allyn Stewart and everybody around welcomed me in,” says Murray. “Not for one second did Clint bring up that it was my first big film. He was just concentrating on the movie and gave me notes each time we watched a reel together. There was never any pressure or lack of respect.”

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