They're no strangers to nominations, but will Oscar finally shine for Dede Allen, Ennio Morricone, and Caleb Deschanel?

By EW Staff
Updated March 23, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
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Much of this year’s Academy buzz seems to surround relative newcomers named Benicio, Kate, and Javier. But also notable among the celebrated are a few seasoned masters who have never won an Oscar but whose brilliant behind-the-scenes contributions are nominated once again. Reintroducing…

DEDE ALLEN

It wasn’t her age — 77 — that almost ended Dede Allen’s film-editing career. It certainly wasn’t her credits, which include 1975’s Dog Day Afternoon and 1981’s Reds (for which she received Oscar nominations), as well as Bonnie and Clyde, The Hustler, Serpico, and The Addams Family. It was that after 25 movies and a seven-year stint as a Warner Bros. production executive, Allen had refused to learn to type. Says the woman who got her break when most of Columbia Pictures’ sound department went off to World War II, ”I never wanted to be seen as a secretary.”

She can probably relax now. This year Allen is nominated for her third Oscar, for Wonder Boys, a project she landed only after agreeing to director Curtis Hanson’s demand that she learn to use a keyboard and edit on an Avid, the computer system that has largely replaced the Moviola. ”I gave up on winning an Oscar a long time ago,” says Allen. Besides, she adds, ”Everyone thinks I won one already.”

She’s certainly won her director’s respect. ”Dede is a performance editor,” says Hanson, ”and that’s why I wanted her.” Adds director Arthur Penn, who worked with Allen on six films, ”Dede can spot the moment in an actor’s performance that is the exquisite moment. [And] she works until a lot of other people would have dropped.”

”I missed a lot of parties because of work,” concurs Allen, who has two children with her husband of 55 years, writer Stephen Fleischman, ”and it came at a great cost to my family.” But oh, the stories she can tell. On Bonnie and Clyde: ”[Studio head] Jack Warner thought the movie was the biggest piece of s— he’d ever seen…. I got thrown off the picture, and Warren Beatty picked me up out of his own pocket.” On The Breakfast Club: ”[One executive] hated the picture. He called it The Group Therapy Session.”

When asked to explain how she has been able to charge through a male-dominated field, Allen says, ”As a woman, you always threaten men, but people liked working with me.

”Or maybe,” she adds with a laugh, ”I just wore them out.” — Rebecca Ascher-Walsh

ENNIO MORRICONE

Ennio Morricone has created more memorable strains of movie music than just about any working composer, but the strain he’s feeling these days isn’t musical. Despite writing some 400 scores in 40 years (that’s an average of 10 a year), despite searing the sounds of the Clint Eastwood-Sergio Leone spaghetti Westerns into the greater pop consciousness, and despite winning Golden Globes and British film awards and countless other glitzy doorstops, the man has yet to bag an Oscar. He’s been nominated five times — for Days of Heaven (1978), The Mission (1986), The Untouchables (1987), Bugsy (1991), and now for the moving score that flows through and around Giuseppe Tornatore’s swoony melodrama Malena.

Do these defeats rankle the courtly, classy 72-year-old composer? Well, of course — even if it only bugs the completist in him. “It’s one of the few honors that is missing for me,” acknowledges Morricone, speaking through a translator from his lifelong hometown of Rome. “And it’s an important recognition for the morality of the profession.” By which he is saying, in his polite fashion, that even other composers are embarrassed that he hasn’t won yet.

He probably won’t win this year, either: Odds are that Academy voters will opt for the meat-and-potatoes ancient Rome of Hans Zimmer’s Gladiator score (how ironic) or the symphonic star power of Tan Dun and Yo-Yo Ma’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Not that the classically trained Morricone is a concert-stage slouch: He’s composed some 80 non-film pieces, some of which he conducted at a recent, well-received performance in London. And his habit, rare in the movie-scoring world, of handling all his own arranging and orchestrating chores, bespeaks a man who sees himself as part of a tradition that measures itself in centuries rather than decades. “The great composers of the past,” says Morricone, “they alone did their arrangements and orchestrations, and one must always take their example.”

Fair enough — and remember, Bach never got an Oscar either. —Ty Burr

CALEB DESCHANEL

The dusk sky was almost blue-black when cinematographer Caleb Deschanel set up an extraordinary battle for The Patriot: a skirmish between British and American soldiers on the front lawn of a Southern mansion circa 1776. What he wanted was to light the scene primarily with flashes of gunpowder exploding like so many strobe lights.

“I kept telling Roland [Emmerich, the director], I don’t think we’re getting anything on film,” Deschanel recalls. “It was so dark, and the flashes so bright. Too contrasty. But I figured, let’s keep shooting anyway and see what happens.”

The experiment worked beautifully. And that bent for creative envelope-pushing has helped land the 59-year-old Deschanel his fourth Oscar nomination, following The Right Stuff (1983), The Natural (1984), and Fly Away Home (1996). “It’s particularly gratifying to be recognized for The Patriot,” he says. “Columbia [Pictures] really did almost nothing to promote it in the usual way, which is ads in Variety.”

Not that Deschanel is one to demand tribute. Director Philip Kaufman (Quills) attests that his Right Stuff lensman, whose first major screen credit was the John Cassavetes drama A Woman Under the Influence (1974), is the soul of self-effacement off the set. But don’t try crossing him on set when he’s focused on getting a certain effect. Kaufman recalls one morning when Deschanel arrived at a desert area outside Edwards Air Force Base to find that some joyriding driver had ignored umpteen “Keep Off” signs and was imprinting tire tracks all over what had been scouted as a pristine sand vista. “Caleb jumped out of our car onto the hood of this guy’s vehicle, and began jumping up and down,” Kaufman says. “He was determined to stop him from ruining our [shot]. It was both mad and incredibly heroic. You want to work with people who care to that extreme.” —Steve Daly

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