While filming the massacre scene in my film Peterloo (2018), cinematographer Dick Pope and I worked in our usual way – no script, no storyboard. However, which is unusual for us, we used three cameras for much of the action. The amount and complexity of the resulting footage might have been intimidating for most film editors, but that was far from the case for Jon Gregory, who died at the age of 77 from a short illness.
He brought his unique talent, imagination, sensitivity and sophistication to the task, while remaining true to the material. As Pope said, “Jon’s cut is always incredibly likeable to my cinematography. Whatever I produce, he will get the most out of it.
John Hillcoat, for whom Jon cut The Road (2009), called him a “genius editor”. Jon himself spoke of an editor with “an innate rhythm on the inside,” to which I would add, in Jon’s case, his innate humanity and wry sense of humor.
We worked together for 30 years, during which time he also edited Mike Newell’s glorious Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and Martin McDonagh’s 2017 masterpiece Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which earned Jon an Oscar nomination.
Although we first met at the BBC film studios in Ealing, West London in the 1970s, Jon and I only joined forces in the 1980s when the new Channel 4 allowed us all to start making some serious native feature films.
We first collaborated on a short film, The Short & Curlies (1987), then High Hopes (1988) and Life Is Sweet (1990), and got more adventurous with Naked (1993). After Four Weddings and a Funeral, My Secrets & Lies (1996) won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. For an example of the brilliance of Jon’s editing, look no further than the photographic studio footage in this film.
Timothy Spall plays a street photographer, and, to get to the essence of this character and his work, I put together 31 assorted actors, a set of three identical little girls triplets, a little boy, a baby, a dog and a cat. Over the course of a few days, we made up and shot a series of brief scenes of people having their picture taken. Jon’s ability to convert these eccentric ad hoc sequences into pure cinematic poetry was special and unique.
In the climactic sequence of the same movie, when all secrets and lies come to light, Jon masterfully dealt with the emotional chaos of seven troubled souls in a suburban home. And in the previous key scene, when mother and daughter first meet and sit side by side in an empty cafe, Jon unequivocally encouraged me to have the confidence to let the action unfold. without interruption, without cuts or close-ups. . And it worked perfectly.
Of course, the director always has the final say, but by collaborating with Jon, a true artist in his own right, and trusting his vision, qualities of the material were revealed that I might not have known otherwise. .
Jon could tell me, “It’s Thursday; leave it to me, and don’t come back until Tuesday. I’d show up in good standing on Tuesday, and he’d say, “Look, I totally overlapped that footage, but if you don’t like what I did, I can fix it all up.” And with rare exceptions, Jon’s radical new take would be a total eye-opener.
After Secrets & Lies, Jon’s services were in such high demand that it took us 14 years to work together again. Among the many films he edited during this period, the most notable are Newell’s Donnie Brasco (1997), Chen Kaige’s Killing Me Softly (2002), Gregor Jordan’s Ned Kelly (2003), Hillcoat’s The Proposition (2005) and the alluring In Bruges by McDonagh (2008).
Jon and I got together for Another Year (2010) and then, after cutting Tanya Wexler’s Hysteria (2011), we shared in the complex joys of Mr. Turner (2014). Slow West by John Maclean (2015) and A United Kingdom (2016) by Amma Asante followed, but it was for McDonagh’s masterpiece Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri that Jon earned a nomination for the Academy and a British Independent Film Award.
Born in Lahore, pre-partition India, now in Pakistan, Jon was the son of Jack Gregory, an agricultural estate manager, and Beryl (née Alderton), a hairdresser. The family moved to Bangalore in 1949, then returned to the UK in 1953. Jon attended Reigate School, where his all-consuming passion for cinema prevented him from succeeding in his studies.
After a brief stint as a designer at Vision Hire, he successfully responded to a BBC ad and joined the studio’s stage team. Observing the monitors on set, he quickly became fascinated with the way the plans were designed and organized. He had found his vocation and, in due course, he joined the cinema department of Ealing, moving from assistant to editor. He has always claimed that the BBC is better than any film school in the world.
As editor, Jon cut a wide range of programming. These included Open All Hours, the Nancy Astor miniseries, and a number of Playhouse and Play for Today dramas. One of them, Beyond the Pale (1981), about Jewish immigrants to the East End, was directed by Les Blair, who later lured Jon out of the BBC to cut his controversial C4 series The Nation’s. Health (1983), written by GF Newman and produced by Tony Garnett.
It was at the BBC that Jon met Sue Baker, who was his assistant, and would later work as his dubbing editor. Partners for 40 years, they finally married in 2020. His first marriage, in 1966, to Beryl Ridley, with whom he had two daughters, Amanda and Claire, ended in divorce.
Sue and her children survive him, as do her stepdaughter, Sarah, and nine grandchildren, Serenah, Summer, Kit, Gabriel J, Ava, Bodie, Asher, Gabriel and Erin.