It’s always fascinating to talk with composers about how they go about scoring a film, what their approach to the material is, how they work with different directors. For this story — that first appeared in last week’s Music for Screens section of Variety — I interviewed seven composers: Marcelo Zarvos (Fences), Carter Burwell (The Founder), Daniel Pemberton (Gold), Max Richter (Miss Sloane), Harry Gregson-Williams (Live by Night), Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Patriots Day). Many took their cues from the characters at the center of the story and developed themes and sounds specific to them, their goals and desires. And in a second story, I discuss the Academy’s surprising decision to include scores from musicals in its “original score” category for the first time in many years.
One of the challenges of today’s more limited space in print media is condensing sometimes lengthy, comprehensive interviews down to their very essence. Yet it’s always fun to talk with major musical artists about working in film, which generally involves more specific parameters than just writing or arranging a song for a record. So for a story in this week’s special issue of Variety, I had to take 20- or 30-minute interviews with Justin Timberlake, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Harvey Mason Jr., French singer Camille and Disney songwriter Glenn Slater and find a way to assemble their key thoughts into one coherent story. They talk about the current films Sing, Trolls and Moana, plus earlier 2016 films including The Little Prince and Sausage Party.
It’s a rare treat to be able to sit down with two of the towering figures of pop music and film music to talk about a collaboration for film. In this case it was songwriter-producer Pharrell Williams and top Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer — along with their friend and musical colleague Benjamin Wallfisch. The three of them produced the score and songs for the new film Hidden Figures, the remarkable untold story of three African-American women were part of the American space program in the early 1960s. Williams served as one of the film’s producers and wrote the songs, which in turn inspired the score penned by Zimmer and Wallfisch. It has an undeniable ’60s vibe infused with gospel sounds, and this story for Variety‘s Music for Screens issue discusses their collaboration.
It was a surprise to discover that 88-year-old songwriting legend Burt Bacharach had decided to score a new movie, and write a new movie song, for the first time in 16 years. It’s no shame to admit that I was thrilled to get the opportunity to sit down with the man who wrote “The Look of Love,” “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and so many of my favorite songs of the ’60s and ’70s. In talking with him (and with director John Asher) about scoring the low-budget Po, I discovered why he wanted to do it; the connection with his late daughter Nikki makes it especially poignant. His song, “Dancing With Your Shadow,” sung by Sheryl Crow, is a real contender for this year’s Academy Awards, as I discuss in a story for this week’s Music for Screens section of Variety.
One of my favorite stories of the past year concerns Michael Giacchino — the composer of Ratatouille, Up and the Star Trek films — who, exhausted from scoring four major films in 2016, was all set to go on vacation when the phone rang, asking him if he might squeeze in a Star Wars film before the end of the year. How he got to do Rogue One, and how he went about it, is the subject of a story I wrote for this week’s Music section of Variety. Along the way I also mention two of my other favorites of his this year: Marvel’s Doctor Strange and Disney’s Zootopia.