Distinguished editor Paul Hirsch's notable credits include his work with directors George Lucas, John Hughes, Herbert Ross, and his most frequent collaborator, Brian De Palma. Known more for his artful handling of action and suspense than his underused comic proficiency, Hirsch emerged as one of the leading editors of modern cinema, working steadily throughout his career and turning out a great number of celebrated motion pictures.
In 1970, the editor got his start with De Palma, making his feature debut as both editor and actor with 1970's well-made satire "Hi Mom!". Three years later, they reteamed on the thriller "Sisters", an early example of the editor's interesting spin on the eerie and his masterful use of rhythm to emphasize the suspenseful script. He gave the musical "Phantom of the Paradise" (1974) an interesting flow and odd structure that helped to make the largely unsuccessful film a cult hit in later years. Hirsch's best work with De Palma may well be 1976's "Carrie"; he perfectly set up the film's evocative drama as well as created a visually stunning ending, incorporating split screens and quick cuts to convey agonizing suspense and terror.
Following his "Carrie" success, Hirsch did notable work with George Lucas on 1977's "Star Wars", sharing an Academy Award for his efforts. The editor skillfully handled this forerunner of special effects-driven pictures, arranging the futuristic film's elaborate action scenes and perfectly establishing the space atmosphere. He also did a masterful job of maintaining the film's narrative thrust in the midst of the overwhelming effects, creating a legendary modern fable. Hirsch had similar success with the more character-focused spirited sequel "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980).
Hirsch teamed with Herbert Ross for 1984's story driven musical "Footloose". The editor helped to make an energetic and endearing modern musical, setting up a rhythm to the film that fit the narrative portions and the dance numbers together in a believable framework, depending less on traditional musical conventions. That same year he edited Ross' somewhat ill-conceived "Protocol". "The Secret of My Success" (1987) marked the pair's third collaboration, but their fourth effort, the entertaining comedy-drama "Steel Magnolias" (1989) would prove more memorable. Well-structured, with a strong and logical flow, the film offered Hirsch the opportunity to show his adeptness, reconciling the often overlapping moving drama and uproarious comedy with his sharp rhythmic structure.
Hirsch's debut work with John Hughes, the 1986 favorite "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", proved the cutter's versatility and keen comic timing. Hirsch set an elaborate and effective tempo in the film, balancing the dry humor of Matthew Broderick's Ferris and cohorts with the more slapstick fate suffered by Principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones). He followed up with an equally fine showing in Hughes' bittersweet "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" (1987) and the well-timed if unremarkable Hughes production "Dutch" (1991).
After a 14-year separation, Hirsch rejoined Brian De Palma on the satirical and suspenseful actioner "Raising Cain", creating a fast-moving and gripping thriller about twins. In 1996, they took on their eighth film together, the ambitious espionage tale "Mission: Impossible". Reportedly one of the most befuddling scripts to be shot, the exciting film ended up just this side of comprehensible due largely to Hirsch's efforts.
Hirsch's notable work with other directors includes Joel Schumacher's jolting drama "Falling Down" and Randa Haines' intimate and compelling "Wrestling Ernest Hemingway" (both 1993). In 1998 he took on two larger scale projects, the Mikael Salomon disaster/heist combo "Hard Rain", an exercise for his noted suspense and action skills, and Disney's hi-tech remake of "Mighty Joe Young" (directed by Ron Underwood), a film best served by the editor's superior balancing of special effects and storylines.