Tom Eagles met Taika Waititi when he woke up one morning to find the director on his couch. Dominic Corry talks to the now Oscar-nominated film editor about his growing success.
Aucklander Tom Eagles is not ready for his Oscar moment. Nominated for Best Achievement in Film Editing at today's Academy Awards for his work on Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit, Eagles told the Herald over the weekend he doesn't have a speech prepared in case he wins.
"Not really. I need to work on that." said Eagles. "I think my chances are pretty low. And that's kind of how I like it. I like to be the underdog a little bit or at least think of myself that way because if I think about it too much, it's just terrifying. The idea of having to get up there..."
Eagles, 41, is one of several Kiwis nominated for Jojo Rabbit, including Waititi himself (for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture) and producer Carthew Neal and production designer Ra Vincent (previously nominated in 2013 for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey).
Eagles spoke to the Herald in Los Angeles following several weeks of awards season fervour which saw him win the American Cinema Editors Award (the "Eddie") in the comedy category for Jojo Rabbit (a huge achievement itself), pop across to London for the BAFTAS (where he was also nominated) and participate in multiple cocktail parties (inlcuding one at Kensington Palace), gala screenings and talks.
"It's been mental. It's been like a full time job."
He also attended the annual Oscar luncheon with all the nominees, where he met one of his heroes, long time Martin Scorsese editor Thelma Schoonmaker, nominated for The Irishman.
"That was amazing. It's been mind blowing to be nominated alongside her. We did a BAFTA Q&A and I was just sitting there, soaking it in, listening to her stories. And then they would turn to me, and I was like, 'Oh, sh*t, I have to say something too.'"
Eagles got to know Waititi via Eagles' wife Dannelle Satherly, the hair and make up designer on Waititi's 2010 film Boy. "I woke up one day and he was on my couch, that was how I first met Taika."
After attending some early screenings and offering notes, Eagles ended up editing the trailers for Boy.
"Then I got a call from him when they were doing What We Do In The Shadows, and he asked me to come down to Wellington and work on that."
Eagles said Waititi is a generous collaborator.
"He gives you a lot of freedom. He's really interested in everyone's ideas. Then when he likes something, he'll really grab it and run with it. And that's quite gratifying as well."
Eagles is currently wrapping up work on the NZ-shot Chloë Grace-Moretz thriller Shadow In The Cloud, directed by his old uni friend Roseanne Liang. The heat from the success of Jojo Rabbit has led to some American job offers, but nothing he is willing to talk about just yet.
"There are a few things on the table that are pretty exciting. I'm right in the process of deciding stuff at the moment."
He said a move to LA with Satherly and their three-year-old son Austin is likely.
"It's so hard in New Zealand to make a living [as a film editor]. And to stay on a film through post-production. Everything's geared towards a low budget mentality, even when the budgets get a little bit bigger. [In LA] you can make a living from it instead of having to be a trustafarian to just work in the film industry, which is where it feels like it's heading back home."
As far as his plan for today? "They're coming to pick us up at like, two o'clock to go mill on the red carpet for a while. So I really don't know what what the day holds other than that. Hanging out with Austin and chilling I think."
What about after parties? "I think there have been some invites. I guess we'll see where the night takes us. I don't think we're big cheese enough for Vanity Fair."
•Follow the Oscars: Get live coverage here on nzherald.co.nz and watch the red carpet and ceremony on TVNZ 2 from 12.30pm, Monday, February 10