Tom Cross Interview: ‘First Man’ editor
“There’s always some new ground covered” when film editor Tom Cross works with director Damien Chazelle. “He likes to try new things,” Cross explains. So he knew that “First Man,” a biopic chronicling the life of astronaut Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and his historic moon landing, would be different from their previous collaborations. Watch our exclusive video interview with Cross above.
In the case of “Whiplash” (2014), for which Cross won an Oscar, Chazelle “wanted to tell the story through the editing: he wanted the cuts to be fast, he wanted the audience to feel the cuts, he wanted to have cuts at right angles.” Cross received another Oscar nom for Chazelle’s musical “La La Land” (2016), whose editing approach needed to be “slow and more languid, more romantic.”
With “First Man,” Chazelle “really wanted it to feel very visceral. He wanted it to be immersive, and again he wanted to do that through the editing style. He wanted the audience to feel the cuts in a certain way.” The director hoped to give the film “a cinema verite, documentary feel,” placing the audience in Armstrong’s moon boots.
Cross reveals that in this film he actually highlighted “certain camera imperfections, certain moves and rack-focus moments” to give the film that nonfiction vibe. “Things that I wouldn’t normally have, that I wouldn’t use, I found to be very usable with ‘First Man.’ So it was a very different process in putting it together.”
“First Man” has already brought Cross awards plaudits to go with the honors he received for his previous films with Chazelle. He picked up a Critics’ Choice nomination for Best Editing, one of 10 bids the film received overall, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Gosling), Best Supporting Actress (Claire Foy), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Josh Singer). Cross has also won prizes from regional film critics in Boston and Washington DC.
Apart from his award-winning work with Chazelle, Cross has lent his talents to films including “Joy” (2015), “Hostiles” (2017), and “The Greatest Showman” (2017).