It’s rare that an editor makes the leap to director, but in 1996, that’s exactly what Stuart Baird did with Executive Decision, starring Kurt Russell and Steven Seagal. Born in England, Baird’s career in film began almost two decades earlier when he worked as assistant director on the British film, If (1968). In 1971, he moved to a post as assistant editor on The Devils, and even branched into sound editing for Savage Messiah (1972). His experience made him a perfect choice to edit the screen musical Tommy(1975), based on the rock opera. After editing two more musical films that year, Lisztomania (1975) and Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare (1975), Baird took a different direction and began editing dramatic films. For his work on Superman (1978), he was honored with an Academy Award® nomination.
In 1980, Baird took on the role of associate producer for the sci-fi film Altered States, but returned to the editing suite for Outland (1981), starring Sean Connery. In 1985, he returned to his roots as assistant director on Ladyhawke, in addition to taking on his usual role as film editor. His superlative work on the hit film Lethal Weapon (1987) added to the film’s suspense, but it wasn’t until he worked on Gorillas in the Mist, starring Sigourney Weaver as the ill-fated Dian Fossey, that Baird earned another Academy Award® nomination.
Baird edited several more hit movies, including Lethal Weapon 2(1989) and Maverick (1994), both starring Mel Gibson, before making his film directing debut with Executive Decision (1996), which he also edited. His next directing job was on U.S. Marshals (1998), starring Tommy Lee Jones as Sam Gerard, recreating the role he’d played in The Fugitive (1993). Disappointingly, neither of Baird’s first two films as a director did as well as expected at the box office.
He bounced back however, when he was offered a chance to direct Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), a film that reunited the characters from the highly popular TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Star Trek: Nemesis(2002)
U.S. Marshals (1998)
Executive Decision (1996)