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Sound Mixer Richard Bryce Goodman Reflects on His Career, From ‘Death Race 2000’ to ‘Ford v Ferrari’

The Hunt for Red October
Moviestore/Shutterstock

When Richard Bryce Goodman was a young man, his wide-ranging interests included photography, music and philosophy (his father, Paul, was a sculptor friend of the artist Henry Moore), but it was a present he received while growing up in Baltimore that seems to have had the biggest influence on his career arc.

“I had a darkroom from age 12 where friends and I used to make our own R&B mixes off WWIN radio with a fancy tape recorder that was given to me by a rich uncle,” says Goodman, an Academy Award-nominated sound mixer.

Goodman’s early training was eclectic. In the late ’60s, he attended London’s Slade School of Fine Art, gaining insight into moviemaking from the institution’s in-house film legend, Thorold Dickinson. Returning stateside, he earned a degree in fine art and philosophy from Bucknell University in 1970. He began shooting documentaries around the college’s art classes using a Bolex camera stocked with film short ends from the psych department. 

On a summer break in Paris, living the bohemian life on a barge on the River Seine, he heard about a cinematographer’s job back in the States with Maryland Public Broadcasting. Discovering that his application had arrived too late, he bluffed his way into a sound department interview, and, armed with a mechanical aptitude gleaned from a borrowed Nagra reel-to-reel tape machine, he was hired.

Learning on the job, Goodman was a working boom operator and mixer by 1972, with his eye on Hollywood. Having met production manager Peter Cornberg in Paris, he was tapped as boom operator on Monte Hellman’s 1974 neo-art classic “Cockfighter” by producer Roger Corman. Continuing the following year with Corman on Paul Bartel’s “Death Race 2000,” Goodman says that capturing David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone’s dialogue over revving race-car motors was an unforgettable learning experience. “It was one of the great post-grad film courses of all time,” he notes. 

His first decade of union membership included mixer gigs on Bartel’s 1982 “Eating Raoul”; Sam Peckinpah’s finale, “The Osterman Weekend”; and episodic work on cult-classic TV show “Police Squad!” By the late ’80s, he was much in demand, working on everything from sci-fi hit “The Running Man” to Walter Hill’s “Red Heat” and “Johnny Handsome.” 

Though he earned an Oscar nomination for his work on 1990’s “The Hunt for Red October,” his masterpiece of dichotic recording may well have come two years earlier on “Rain Man.” With Tom Cruise blasting his lines and Dustin Hoffman delivering his in a mumbling monotone, strategic placement of microphones and extreme technical prowess was required to produce a conversational mix for a film that won four Academy Awards, including best picture.

After mixing the film “The Bodyguard,” which produced a best-selling soundtrack album, Goodman worked on a collection of popular projects, from Frank Darabont’s 1999 classic “The Green Mile” and Paul Verhoeven’s “Hollow Man” to John Woo’s “Windtalkers” and Ben Stiller’s 2008 “Tropic Thunder.” 

Now retired to a “listener’s life” after his final picture, 2012’s Alaska-set “Big Miracle,” Goodman still takes in movies with a critical ear, and says he adored the sound team’s work on James Mangold’s “Ford v Ferrari.”

“You can hear the artistic beauty of those cars with your eyes closed,” he says with a smile. 

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