Coates to get honorary Oscar after 63 years as film editor

SANDY COHEN
Associated Press
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FILE - In this Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, file photo, Career Achievement Award winner, editor Anne V. Coates poses at The 41st Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards at the InterContinental hotel, in Los Angeles. On Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, Coates will be awarded an honorary Academy Award from the film academy’s Board of Governors. (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Film editor Anne V. Coates didn't know much about erotic bondage before working on "Fifty Shades of Grey," but even at nearly 90 years old, she felt the film should be sexier.

"I fought strongly to get it more sexy," Coates said in her enthusiastic lilt during a recent interview. "I had some great ideas. I wanted her wrapped up like a suitcase and hoisted up to the ceiling."

That adventurous spirit and love of film led Coates to become a sought-after editor for more than 60 years. An Oscar winner for editing 1962's "Lawrence of Arabia," Coates will receive a second statuette Saturday — an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement — alongside actor Jackie Chan, casting director Lynn Stalmaster and documentarian Frederick Wiseman at the film academy's eighth annual Governors Awards.

"I love the fact that (this award) brings light onto editors, because I don't think they get enough recognition for what they do — probably because people don't really understand what we do," Coates said.

Film editing is the artistic and technical endeavor of cutting raw footage into cinematic story sequences. Coates said she initially wanted to be a film director, "but in the days when I was young, it was very difficult for women and there weren't many jobs open to them." Besides hairstyling and makeup, editing was one of the few options.

Coates first became dazzled by the world of film while a student at boarding school. Her class was reading "Wuthering Heights" (which she found "extremely boring") when they went on a field trip to see the movie version.

"Well, apart for falling madly for Laurence Olivier, it just so excited me to see what you could do with pictures, with telling a story in pictures," she said.

Coates worked steadily as an editor from 1952 until last year's "Fifty Shades," earning four other Oscar nominations along the way for "Becket," ''The Elephant Man," ''In the Line of Fire," and "Out of Sight."

Director David Lean would prove pivotal in her career. Not only did he hire her for his Oscar-winning "Lawrence of Arabia," he encouraged her to share her ideas.

"He always said to me, 'Have the confidence to say what you think. It doesn't matter who the producer and director are; you come up with your opinions,'" she recalled. "You've got to be fairly tough to be an editor, I think."

Thus the bid for a sexier "Fifty Shades."

As opportunities for women in the film industry increased, Coates was offered directing jobs, but she turned them down. Editing offered a more forgiving schedule for a young mother, she said: "Also, my husband was a director, so you know, too many directors on top of each other."

She has three children with her late husband, Douglas Hickox. Their two sons are directors and their daughter is a film editor.

Coates said the transition to digital, which she made with 1995's "Congo," didn't change her style much because she rarely employs the newfangled tricks it offers.

She's grateful, though, that she won't have to learn how to edit the inevitable virtual-reality films.

"I won't, really, because I'm semi-retiring myself right now," the 90-year-old said. "But the new editors will have to involve themselves in that as well."

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .