Mary Sweeney

Mary Sweeney is an American film producer, director, writer and film editor, who collaborated for 20 years with, and was briefly the spouse of American film director David Lynch. Sweeney worked with Lynch on several films and television series, most notably the original Twin Peaks series (1990), Lost Highway (1997), The Straight Story, (1999) and Mulholland Drive (2001). Sweeney is the Dino and Martha De Laurentiis Endowed Professor in the Writing Division of the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. She is the Chair of the Film Independent Board of Directors.

Mary Sweeney
OccupationFilm producer, director, writer, film editor
Years active1983–present
David Lynch
(m. 2006; div. 2006)
AwardsBAFTA Award for Best Editing
2001 Mulholland Drive


Mary Sweeney is a feature film producer, director, writer, and editor. Beginning in 1985 with Blue Velvet, and continuing through the 2006 film Inland Empire, she collaborated with David Lynch as his film producer, writer and editor. Sweeney's editing credits include Blue Velvet (1986), Wild at Heart (1990), Twin Peaks (1991), Industrial Symphony (1991), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), On the Air (1992), Hotel Room(1993), Lost Highway (1996), The Straight Story (2000), Mulholland Drive (2001) and Baraboo (2009). Sweeney is a Consulting Producer/Writer on Matthew Weiner's anthology series “The Romanoffs.”

She won the British Academy Award for Best Editing for Mulholland Drive. As the producer of Mulholland Drive she won the César Award for Best Foreign Film, and the New York Film Critics Award for Best Film. She developed, produced, wrote and edited The Straight Story, for which Richard Farnsworth received an Academy Award nomination. As producer of The Straight Story, she won the European Film Award For Best Foreign Film, and the film received four nominations for the Independent Spirit Awards; Best Film, Best Director, Best First Screenplay, and Best Actor. Her producing credits date from 1995 and include Lost Highway, The Straight Story, Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire, directed by Lynch, and Baraboo (2009), her directorial debut based on her original screenplay.

After completing a master's degree in film at NYU, Sweeney worked her way up the ranks of film editing in New York and San Francisco, on films such as Reds, directed by Warren Beatty, Tender Mercies, directed by Bruce Beresford, Places in the Heart, directed by Robert Benton, Little Drummer Girl, directed by George Roy Hill, and The Mean Season, directed by Phil Boursos. In 1985 she began working with Lynch on Blue Velvet.

Sweeney continued to write screenplays while collaborating with Lynch. These include The Surprise Party, for Paramount Pictures, and Two Knives, a martial arts film for director Wong Kar Wai and Fox Searchlight Pictures.

She wrote, directed, produced and edited a short, silent film, In the Eye Abides the Heart, filmed in Buenos Aires, which premiered at the 2006 Venice Film Festival, then played the international festival circuit. She went on to write, direct, produce and edit her debut feature film, Baraboo (2009), which premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival and won Best First Feature awards at the Galway Film Fleadh and the Wisconsin Film Festival.

She has been on the Board of Directors of Film Independent since 2000, and was elected Chair of the Board of Directors in 2012. Film Independent is a non-profit arts organization that produces the Independent Spirit Awards, the Los Angeles Film Festival, and the Film Independent Series at LACMA.

In 2003 she joined the faculty of the Division of Writing for Screen and Television in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. She was installed as the Dino and Martha De Laurentiis Endowed Professor in 2012.

Between 2010 and 2015, she was a Fulbright Film Specialist and traveled for the State Department on Fulbright grants to Jordan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Myanmar and Cuba to mentor filmmakers in those countries.

She is the Vice President and founding member of the DesertX non-profit Board of Directors. DesertX will be an site specific art exhibition in the Coachella Valley, February through April, 2017.

She is a member in good standing of AMPAS, BAFTA, the DGA, and the WGA, where she is on the WGA Independent Writers Committee.

Mary graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a BA in History, and has a master's degree in Cinema Studies from New York University. She earned a Certificate of Fine Arts from the Corcoran School of Fine Arts in Washington, D.C.

Awards and nominations


  • "As we get closer to the end, he'll [David Lynch] actually sit with me during editing when he wants to work on something specific, but he gets too antsy for the most part and it's often much easier for me to edit without someone watching over my shoulder."[1]

Selected filmography

As film editor

As assistant editor

As producer

As writer

As director

  • Baraboo (2009)


  1. "Interview with Mary Sweeney, Editor, 'The Straight Story'" By Elina Shatkin, EditorsNet, October 14, 1999
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