Joel Cox may not be a household name, but the feature films that he’s edited over the course of 40 plus years are held in the highest regard throughout the world.
Cox has been film legend Clint Eastwood’s chief editor since the 1970s, and their collaborations together have truly been a match made in Hollywood Heaven; which culminated in 1992 when both men won and took home Oscar gold for the classic western, Unforgiven. Eastwood won for Best Picture and Best Director, while Cox won for Best Editing.
Mr. Cox was recently inducted into the Walk of Western Stars in Newhall for his countless contributions to the western cinema genre. Film legend Glenn Ford was also inducted at the same event.
“To be enshrined here with Glenn Ford on the same night is an honor because I grew up with the westerns and I loved (Glenn Ford’s) movies,” said Cox at the ceremony.
Joel Cox started in the Warner Bros. studio mail-room in 1961, and stayed there for years in order to hold out for an opportunity to get a job as a feature film editor. 11 years later, a feature film editing position opened up at the studio and he was able to seize the opportunity.
“To me, it was worth every bit (of the wait),” said Cox. He said that many of his editing friends he came up with wanted him to leave Warner Bros to work and edit on various T.V. shows and other projects, but he stayed where he was.
“I have a goal,” he told them. “They all wish that they had my job today because they tell me all the time I wish I would have waited (like you did)… In my life, this is what I envisioned and what I wanted to do.”
Although Cox has won an Oscar, and many of his films like Mystic River, The Bridges of Madison County, and Million Dollar Baby have garnered public success and critical acclaim, he says that some of the smaller feature films that didn’t get as much buzz or admiration were very rewarding as well. One of those movies was Bird, a 1988 biographical film about the life of jazz saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker.
“I had a few editors call me and say that you should have been nominated, and you should have really won for that film,” said Cox. “(They told me) that was a masterful editing job. When I was working earlier (in my career) with Clint, he said to me ‘If you’re looking for awards, you shouldn’t be working for me.’ And now look at all of the awards we won; (so) you never know what’s going to happen.”
Cox also shared some insight on how aspiring editors could potentially get their break presently in today’s Hollywood.
“You cannot do what I did. It’s impossible to move from the mail-room into editing now because the studios have changed everything and it’s completely different. What I would advise people to do if they wanted to get into editing (today) is to take some classes (in college), and then go out in the field, look up various post (production) houses.”
Cox then said that if he was an up and coming editor looking for work today, he would say to potential employers, “I’m willing to work for you for nothing, just to learn and I’ll give you a month of my time for no cost; then (I’ll work for) minimum wage for 6 months. If you feel (that) I’m worthy of your company, then I’d like to get paid a going wage, and you give me the help to get into the union (or the Motion Pictures Editors Guild) so I could do films. You’re going to have to give to get.”
Cox currently has two projects in the works this year. The first project is a film called “Trouble with the Curve,” starring his friend and collaborator Clint Eastwood. The film will is scheduled to be released in September.
An additional film is a remake of, “A Star is Born,” which will star pop superstar sensation Beyonce Knowles.
At 70 years young, Cox is unsure of how much longer he will continue to edit. However, with two projects in the works for just this year, he doesn’t seem to be slowing down and his best work may still lay ahead.