Academy Award winning film editor Jim Clark brings his electrifying career to life in this intriguing, often-funny, and always-candid memoir of his career from the cutting room floor to the red carpet. This spirited romp takes you behind the scenes of the some of the most celebrated movies of our time.

From such classics as Charade, The Killing Fields, and Marathon Man to Midnight Cowboy, The Jackal, and The World Is Not Enough, Clark reveals all the behind the scene stories and drama in this straight-talking tale that spares no one.

Praise for Dream Repairman

”Jim Clark is a master at his craft and ‘repaired’ my first film as a director in ways that were beyond my knowledge or comprehension. Read Dream Repairman and you’ll understand what I mean. I will be grateful to him for life.” Gene Wilder

”Jim Clark’s book is witty, wise and wonderfully well written. Anybody remotely interested in the past fifty years of British cinema should lap it up.” David Puttnam

Dream Repairman is astonishing, informative, hilarious, outrageous and charming.” Mike Leigh

If an editor has a good working relationship with a director, he’ll probably get involved in the pre-production of a film. Usually with John Schlesinger, I would be involved with the script early on and go through various versions with him but often what happens is that you’re sent a script through the mail by your agent and asked to read with a view to cutting it. This happens to me a lot. Often I’m not interested in scripts and read them up to a point, then throw them aside. It’s never wise to tackle a film if you don’t like the script. If you read it and say yes, then you meet the director. If that meeting goes well and you feel you have a mutual understanding of the script and want to work together, then you may proceed.

That happened to me on The Killing Fields. I only read it once and immediately knew that I wanted to get involved because I liked the script. I then met Roland Joffé who didn’t know me at all. It was David Puttnam’s suggestion that I should cut the film. Puttnam never actually called me himself. I had a call from Iain Smith who was the associate producer, asking me if I was interested. I knew Puttnam vaguely from Agatha but we had not been particularly close and I certainly hadn’t seen much of him. I went to David’s office for my meeting with Roland and we talked briefly about the script and about the film because he was about to go off to Bangkok to actually make it. So you could say I was imposed on him.

The script, by Bruce Robinson, was fascinating and written in an odd style that was not at all like a regular screenplay but more like an article written on speed. It was fuelled with passion and I could see straight away that, if it was well made, it would be an absolutely cracking, emotional film.

David said that, since I would be the first person to actually see this material, I had to phone him in Bangkok as soon as I’d seen it and give him a report. “Be absolutely fearless,” he told me. “Don’t just say nice things to me. Whatever you feel you must say.” So I did and the very first scene they shot was outside a cafe. Malkovich and Waterston are sitting, having a coffee and a bomb goes off. David phoned me after that and said, “Well, we did the first day and we nearly killed the actor,” because the special effects people had got too close to Sam on take five and the fire had actually singed his beard. It was a very tricky moment for everybody and that was the take we finally used in the film.

I wasn’t, however, concerned about the look, but more the way that Sam Waterston was playing the part. Bryan Oates was my assistant again and, while we were viewing the rushes, he said he wasn’t convinced that this guy was a hardened war reporter. I didn’t get that as quickly as Bryan, but I did say to Puttnam on the phone, as I’d been instructed, “Sam Waterston doesn’t seem to be playing the role right. He seems to be too weak and soft.” Naturally enough when Puttnam reported back to Roland Joffé that I had made these rather critical remarks, Roland wasn’t very pleased because he didn’t really know me and why should he take comments about the acting from the film editor? It’s not something we editors normally do. We don’t critique the acting, perhaps as much as we should, but this was a special case because we were some distance away from one another. I never spoke to Roland directly. I only spoke to David.

Things went on and after about a month of material coming in, Waterston’s performance greatly improved. Whatever I had said and whatever Roland thought about my remarks, he did obviously communicate to Sam that he needed to be more convincing as a professional war reporter. I thought the look of the material was very good but I was critical of Roland’s interest in master shots and not in cover. The master shots were very well done but he failed to cover in closeups and various other angles, so I asked for more…

John had already worked with Dustin Hoffman on Midnight Cowboy but their relationship was not particularly close. After Cowboy Dustin got the hump  and didn’t really speak to John but by the time it came to Marathon Man you wouldn’t have known there was a rift at all. He was not combative and would take direction very well. It was a very happy shoot and Dustin was very protective of Olivier.

While we were working on Marathon Man, my eldest daughter Kate lived with us and I recall that she was involved in some jewelry-making classes with the male companion of Roddy McDowall, an actor I’d known for some time. Roddy invited us to his parties that were always crammed with famous faces. I remember sitting next to Rock Hudson at one of these shindigs and we were probably the only people there who didn’t know he was gay. Roddy was very sociable and lived near Studio City opposite Gene Autry.

He would give occasional poolside lunch parties as well as evening dinners, which were always catered. The food was not that good, but people attended for the quality of the guests. Roddy was a friend of John Schlesinger and perhaps they thought we did not get invited out too often because we weren’t celebrities. It was always a gathering of the great and famous. Danny Kaye did a wonderful impersonation of Laurence’s French accent, and Vincent Price, who had by this time met and fallen for Coral Browne, was often there with her. It was charming to see Vincent and Coral behaving like teenagers in love.

Marilyn Monroe had only recently married Arthur Miller, who was with her more often than not. She had a dressing room on the stage and one of our jobs was to escort her, daily, to the projection room where she saw her rushes, very often with her husband and the film’s producer, Milton Green.

So either Des or I would knock on her door about 5:30 and she’d walk with us down the long corridor at Pinewood, often clutching a copy of the collected poems of Dylan Thomas, which I never saw her open. She was very shortsighted and wore glasses until she was in front of the camera.

On the very last day of filming, Marilyn had reluctantly agreed to shoot some retakes that Olivier demanded. The crew sat around all morning waiting for her to arrive, which was not unusual, and when she did, she distributed champagne to everyone, which was fine, but caused even more delay and more frustration for Olivier, or ‘Sir’ as we called him.

She finally did appear in costume, ready for work, but was, by now, quite pickled. Olivier, out of spite, perhaps, printed everything they shot that afternoon, most of which was useless as Marilyn was bumping into the furniture and unable to act.

In the end, Jack Harris used about 6 feet out of 2,000. I have often pondered the lost opportunity to remove those rushes from the cutting room and secrete them in my garage for future use. Of course none of us knew the star would soon die, nor that she would become a screen idol and that these feeble rushes would have been worth a great deal.

It was during the final stages of The Innocents that Stanley Donen went into production on his next picture, a romantic comedy thriller, Charade. It had been written for London, but at the eleventh hour there were some tax problems concerning the principal actors and the whole thing was moved to the Studio de Boulogne in Paris.

Charade had Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in the lead roles and an excellent list of supporting actors. The screenplay was good and the actors well cast. Walter Matthau, James Coburn, and George Kennedy all went on to become leading Hollywood stars.

It was a film with a slender story but masses of style and Peter Stone, one of the two writers, was on set all the time to alter dialogue if Cary required it. Peter had previously written for television but had no film production experience and he wanted to learn how movies were made. He also helped keep the atmosphere light. There was great camaraderie on the set between Stanley, Peter, Cary, and Audrey. She had no faults at all. In fact, it was a very smooth production, largely due to Jimmy Ware’s outstanding ability as an organiser in both languages.

Stanley had a very light touch as a director. He allowed the actors to do their thing and only interfered if it was vital. We never socialised with the actors unless they requested it. In France it was a ritual to throw a drinks party on the set every Friday after shooting, hosted by one of the actors. We celebrated Cary Grant’s sixtieth birthday on the set. At the end of shooting, Cary and Audrey gave each crew member a small gift.

I settled into the hotel over a weekend. It had been arranged that the French lady editor would pick me up and drive me out to the Studio de Boulogne, since I had no car and was unfamiliar with public transportation in Paris. I also spoke very little French. So on the Monday morning the editor was there waiting for me. I recognised her at once as the same girl who had stood me up some years before on Once More with Feeling. It was Laurence Méry. Of course she claimed not to remember the incident, but I was certain it was her. In fact Laurence says that when she first saw me descending the staircase of the Lennox she said to herself, “Thank heaven he’s young!”

I started on the first day of photography, along with my crew. I had a Moviola shipped over from England since I did not want to edit on the French machine, the Mauritone, though it did have a great screen and we often used it for viewing rushes and cut scenes.

There was a sense of fun pervading the enterprise that made us all feel good. The hours were long for the editing staff because the picture was being shot according to French union rules. Shooting began at noon and continued without a break until eight in the evening, when the rushes were shown. The cutting room, however, would open up around ten in the morning, so that we were on hand should Stanley want to run material on the Mauritone. By the time our rushes had ended in the evening, it was around nine and we had just worked another eleven-hour day. But in Paris you can eat late and we were all younger then.