Thelma Schoonmaker ‘staggered’ and ‘moved’ to be awarded Bafta Fellowship

Thelma Schoonmaker arrives for the annual Vanity Fair Party at Mortons Restaurant, Los Angeles.
Thelma Schoonmaker arrives for the annual Vanity Fair Party at Mortons Restaurant, Los Angeles.

Film editor Thelma Schoonmaker will be awarded this year’s Bafta Fellowship, following in the footsteps of Sir David Attenborough, Sir Bruce Forsyth and journalist Kate Adie.

The fellowship is the highest accolade bestowed by Bafta on an individual for their work in film, TV or games across their career.

Schoonmaker, whose 50-year partnership with director Martin Scorsese produced works like Goodfellas, gave her “deepest thanks”.

She said: “I am staggered to be asked to join such an illustrious group as the Bafta Fellows and particularly moved and honoured to be joining two of the most important people in my life – my director, Martin Scorsese, and my late husband, Michael Powell (and his partner Emeric Pressburger) – all of whom have been given Bafta Fellowships.

“The British Cinema has been a huge influence on Martin Scorsese and through his teachings on me.”

Bafta chief executive Amanda Berry said the body was delighted to hand Schoonmaker the annually awarded prize.

She said: “We are thrilled to honour Thelma Schoonmaker with a Bafta Fellowship, celebrating her career as one of the film industry’s most respected editors responsible for some of cinema’s most iconic and treasured moments.”

Schoonmaker garnered two Bafta gongs for best editing for her work on Raging Bull (1980) and Goodfellas (1990) as well as three Oscars for best film editing for Raging Bull (1981), The Aviator (2005) and The Departed (2007).

Heritage plaque for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Thelma Schoonmaker with Martin Scorsese (Sean Dempsey/PA)

Born in Algiers in 1940, Schoonmaker moved to the US as a teenager and graduated from Cornell University in 1961 before studying at Columbia University in Primitive Art.

During a six-week course in filmmaking at New York University, she met Scorsese. In 1967 she helped him edit his first feature film, entitled Who’s That Knocking at My Door.

Other notable recipients of the fellowship include Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Elizabeth Taylor, Stanley Kubrick and Laurence Olivier.

The fellowship will be awarded at the British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Albert Hall on February 10.

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