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Alien and Blade Runner editor Terry Rawlings passes away at 85

By Don Kaye
Terry Rawlings

The editor who cut two of the most iconic movies in sci-fi history has died. Terry Rawlings, who worked as an editor with director Ridley Scott on Alien, Blade Runner, and Legend, has passed away at the age of 85, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Rawlings died Tuesday (April 23) of heart failure at his home in Hertfordshire, England.

Among Rawlings' other genre-related credits were the controversial horror outing The Sentinel (1977), the animated version of the classic fantasy Watership Down (1978), David Fincher's feature directorial debut Alien 3 (1992), Pierce Brosnan's debut as James Bond in GoldenEye (1995), the TV spy spinoff The Saint (1997), and the sci-fi thriller The Core (2003).

But his work on Scott's two sci-fi milestones, Alien and Blade Runner, is what genre fans will remember best. Rawlings started his career as a sound editor, which is the job Scott initially offered him on Alien. But Rawlings had bigger ideas.

"I said I didn't want to do the sound, I wanted to cut the picture!" he recalled in a 2012 interview, adding, "We never left the cutting room ever — it was like we were working 24 hours a day to get the film done, and it was just a fantastic exercise in how to frighten someone to death."

Rawlings faced greater challenges on Blade Runner, starting with his actual credit. Because he was not a member of the American editors' union, he was billed as "supervising editor" even though he says he was "the only editor." He was also not allowed to work on the Warner Bros. lot, cutting the film in a hotel room instead.

On top of that, Blade Runner went through multiple cuts before its release as the studio struggled to find a version that the execs thought would work with mainstream audiences. Rawlings recalled, "When it was first taken to America, it was with no commentary, and it ended with (Harrison Ford and Sean Young) going through the doors. And when we ran it over there, people were saying, 'We don't understand it.' Nobody understood it to start with, it was so ahead of its time."

Rawlings was not pleased with the voiceover and happier ending that were initially added to the movie, saying, "I think it's great when the door closes. You make up your own mind. They're not going off holding hands in a car, which was dreadful." Fans ever since have agreed, with Scott's "director's cut" becoming the official version of the movie.

Rawlings is survived by his wife of 59 years, Louise, and two of the greatest landmarks in sci-fi cinematic history.