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Geraldine Peroni, 51; Film Editor Teamed With Altman

August 08, 2004|Dennis McLellan | Times Staff Writer

Geraldine Peroni, a film editor who collaborated on eight of director Robert Altman's films, including "The Player," for which she received an Academy Award nomination, has died. She was 51.

Peroni died of undetermined causes Tuesday at her home in New York City, according to Altman's production office.

She began her working relationship with the maverick director as co-editor of his 1990 drama "Vincent & Theo." She went on to edit -- besides "The Player" -- "Short Cuts," "Pret-a-Porter," "Kansas City," "The Gingerbread Man," "Dr. T & the Women" and "The Company."

She received the Oscar nomination for "The Player" in 1993.

Among her other credits as editor were Tim Robbins' "Cradle Will Rock," Nora Ephron's "Michael," Tom DiCillo's "Johnny Suede" and episodes of the HBO series "The Wire."

Altman called the death of his favorite editor "a big loss."

"She made my work so easy," he told The Times. "She reads me better than anybody had ever read me, and, consequently, she did the work; I didn't have to. So it was a wonderful situation. But those things don't last."

In a recent interview for the Directors Guild of America magazine, Altman elaborated on that relationship.

"I know many times I'll shoot a certain thing and Ms. Peroni -- you can tell by her face that she finds it in bad taste. I'll say, 'I know, but I want it to be in bad taste,' and she'll say, 'Really?' and already I'm blindsided by her, because I know what she thinks of the material because she can't disguise her feelings. So that affects me.

"I get to the point where I could be shooting a scene and a little bird will jump in my ear and say, 'Gerri's not going to like this.' "

In a 1993 story in The Times, Peroni discussed working with Altman on "Short Cuts," his more than three-hour drama featuring nearly a dozen interlocking stories.

"Hopefully, when you screen the dailies, you react to something -- a glance between two actors that came out of nowhere -- where something magic happens," she said. "If you're lucky, you have something like that in every scene that you can focus on. With Bob, it happens a lot."

Born in Manhattan, Peroni grew up in Rockaway Beach, Queens. Before launching her film career in the early 1980s, she held a variety of jobs, including waitress and working in a high school and a group home for teenagers. She also was among the first women to take the New York City firefighters' written exam, in 1977.

She was a New York City cabdriver when, inspired by another woman who drove part time between jobs as a film editor, she began taking film classes at Hunter College.

Her first movie job was as an editorial apprentice on the 1983 film adaptation of Grace Paley's "Enormous Changes at the Last Minute."

Peroni was assistant editor on John Sayles' "Matewan" (1987), and she assisted Thelma Schoonmaker on Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988) and his segment of "New York Stories" (1989). Her first credit as co-editor was "Iron & Silk" (1990). Most recently Peroni had been working as editor on Ang Lee's upcoming "Brokeback Mountain."

She is survived by her sister, Pam O'Grady; and her brother, Peter.

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