Adam Gough interview: ‘Da 5 Bloods’ editor

“Da 5 Bloods” film editor Adam Gough is based in London, while director Spike Lee is based in New York City, “so when I got the call it wasn’t something I was expecting at all … I kind of felt in a completely different universe being invited in, but I jumped at the opportunity.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Gough above.

“Da 5 Bloods” tells the story of a group of African-American veterans of the Vietnam War who return to the country for the remains of their fallen squad leader (Chadwick Boseman) as well as hidden gold they left behind on the battlefield. It was Gough’s first collaboration with Lee, and it started when both of them were on the 2018 awards campaign trail: Gough as the editor of “Roma” and Lee as the writer-director of “BlacKkKlansman.” “Spike didn’t waste any time,” Gough remembers. “The morning of the BAFTAs I went down to his hotel and we were plotting some of the montage sequences. His mind was immediately deep into ‘Da 5 Bloods.'”

Gough was already acquainted with Lee’s previous editor Barry Alexander Brown, “and he was nice enough to give me a little bit of a heads-up, so I met him for a drink one day and he explained what Spike likes, his workflow, so I went in prepared — or what I thought was prepared, but still Spike is a hurricane of energy so I had to keep running to keep up with it.” Lee “is not in the cutting room as often” as “Roma” director Alfonso Cuaron, but “during the shoot he’s very involved editorially.”

They went over footage every day, “and I was taking that as an opportunity with it being a new relationship with a director to show very early cuts that I was working on … and I’m glad I did that because in all honesty at the beginning of ‘Da 5 Bloods’ I was going in completely the wrong direction of what Spike had in mind stylistically,” so that gave him the opportunity to course-correct. Adding to the challenge was the amount of archive footage used in the film, so “there was almost a mini documentary structure in the workflow going on. We probably had nearing 50 hours of archive material before we started shooting.”

As for all the new footage, Gough explains that “I’m quite empathetic with dailies, so I have quite a strong emotional response very early.” The film’s lead performance elicited an especially strong response. “Delroy Lindo scared the shit out of me,” he explains. He was so intimidated by the intensity that the actor channeled to play traumatized vet Paul that the editor “would avoid conversation with him. It wasn’t until post when he came in for ADR that I actually talked to him properly.”

But Gough certainly got off on the right foot with Lee. After they collaborated on “Da 5 Bloods,” Gough edited “David Byrne’s American Utopia” for Lee, and now “I’m currently on my third project with Spike, which has not been announced yet so I’ll just call it the untitled third project for the moment.”

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UPLOADED Feb 25, 2021 12:50 pm