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.
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.
What do the composers of some of this year’s most talked-about films — Nocturnal Animals, Moonlight and Lion — have in common? Fresh and innovative approaches, as I discuss in my latest music story for Variety. Interviews with Abel Korzeniowski (Nocturnal Animals), Nicholas Britell (Moonlight) and Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka (Lion) reveal that each found offbeat musical ways into their respective dramas, and each deepened the filmgoing experience. For Korzeniowski, it was flipping musical genres for the two stories in the film; for Britell, using a hip-hop recording technique; and for O’Halloran and Hauschka, collaborating on a film set largely in India without employing Indian music.
Today was my favorite day in ages: Spending the day at Judie Rosenman’s house interviewing Dave Grusin about his life and career in film and TV music. I’ve loved Grusin’s work since the mid-1960s and it was an honor to delve into both his history and his work process: the TV scores, the Sydney Pollack films, the Oscar for Milagro Beanfield War, you name it, we covered it. All done for the Film Music Foundation, which plans to make these video “oral histories” widely available to the public. (Best part: recalling my favorite of his TV themes, The Name of the Game, and having Dave go over to the piano and play it for me. Oh, man, it doesn’t get better than that.)