Every year Variety asks me to analyze the music races for the Academy Awards — not really handicapping them, as that entails choosing favorites, which I don’t like to do. But examining the five nominees, quoting the composers, hinting at what’s important about each, and subtly suggesting what Academy voters might be thinking. Alexandre Desplat’s The Shape of Water is the current favorite, but I think you cannot count out Jonny Greenwood’s Phantom Thread or Carter Burwell’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Hans Zimmer’s Dunkirk and John Williams’ Star Wars: The Last Jedi are admittedly outsiders at this point… but the Oscars love to surprise us. This story appeared only in print, so please click on the images to read it here.
For another in Variety‘s series of looks at this year’s Oscar-worthy film music, I singled out four films that might be characterized as either fantasy or science-fiction: Alexandre Desplat’s The Shape of Water, Rolfe Kent’s Downsizing, Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s Blade Runner 2049, and Michael Giacchino’s War for the Planet of the Apes. All four are terrific, and while Desplat’s Shape of Water seems to have the best chance at nomination, I wouldn’t count out any of them!
As part of Variety‘s series of examinations of awards-worthy work in this year’s film music, we looked at four films that depict either historical events (Dunkirk, Battle of the Sexes, All The Money in the World) or were rooted in historical fact (Mudbound). Hans Zimmer’s Dunkirk score would seem to have the best chance at an Oscar nomination this year, although Nicholas Britell did a great job with Battle of the Sexes and Daniel Pemberton’s faux-Italian-opera for All the Money in the World is fascinating. And don’t count out Tamar-kali’s chamber-music approach to Mudbound — at a time when diversity matters more than ever, she could easily make the final five.
Movie music in the concert hall seems to be, as they say, “trending” — it’s more popular than ever, and in many different forms. For the lead story in this week’s Variety “Music for Screens” section, I interviewed three composers (David Newman, who recently conducted the New York Philharmonic in sold-out Star Wars shows ; Ramin Djawadi, whose Game of Thrones tour was so successful he’s planning another; and Hans Zimmer, whose European and American tours transformed the traditional “film music” show into more of a rock concert); and three producers, including Steve Linder and Jamie Richardson from Film Concerts Live! and Richard Kraft, who has produced a number of concerts of Danny Elfman and Disney films.
With Blade Runner 2049 opening this weekend, and the colossal box-office success of It, I thought it was the perfect moment to talk at length with composer Benjamin Wallfisch about both scores — which, incidentally, couldn’t be farther apart in terms of style and execution. Wallfisch collaborated with Hans Zimmer on the all-electronic score for Blade Runner, and in this interview for Variety he discusses their intent to remind us of the sound of the original (composed in 1982 by Vangelis) while also making it fresh for a new story set 30 years later. Wallfisch also discusses his complex and frightening symphonic score for the Stephen King thriller It, which must rank among the finest orchestral scores of the year.
One of the most-anticipated movies of the fall season is Blade Runner 2049, and I was offered the opportunity to interview composers Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch for a half-hour Facebook Live previewing not only the film but also the soundtrack album being released Thursday via Epic Records. Zimmer and Wallfisch talked about their collaboration with director Denis Villeneuve, about their admiration for the iconic Vangelis score for the 1982 Blade Runner, and how they managed to evoke that sonic world for the new film while also extending it into new musical realms as appropriate. Joining us later in the conversation was singer-songwriter Lauren Daigle, who contributed a song, “Almost Human,” to the soundtrack. Scroll down to the Oct. 3 videos on the Facebook Blade Runner page for the 28-minute conversation.
Nearing the end of his world tour, composer Hans Zimmer brought his live concert show to L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium, where 6,000 fans screamed and cheered to his iconic themes from The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean, Inception and many others. I attended the Friday-evening concert and filed this report for Variety the next day. The photo at left, incidentally, is the cover of the $10 “souvenir program” — which turned out to be worth the price for its set list, Zimmer interview and thoughts by several of the musicians performing with him.
A new film on the craft of creating music for movies, Score: A Film Music Documentary, opens this weekend in New York (and next weekend in Los Angeles). It features new interviews with composers including Hans Zimmer, John Powell, Quincy Jones, Brian Tyler, John Debney, David Arnold, Rachel Portman and others; footage from earlier films featuring John Williams and Thomas Newman; and commentary from critic Leonard Maltin, agent Richard Kraft, Disney executive Mitchell Leib, record producer Robert Townson, director James Cameron, and many more. I am on camera from time to time to offer historical perspective. Filmmaker Matt Schrader filmed numerous scoring sessions in Los Angeles and London, and the result is a fast-moving, illuminating look at the art and business of movie music. You’ll see me in the trailer, which is here along with the New York Times‘ rave review.
Ron Howard, who produced (and directed the first episode of) the new National Geographic series Genius, about the life of Albert Einstein, has often turned to composer Hans Zimmer for his movie scores (including Frost / Nixon, Rush and the Da Vinci Code films). So it was a natural for him to ask Zimmer to write the theme for his new dramatic series (which, after Zimmer scores for such time-and-space-bending films as Inception and Interstellar, seems appropriate). Lorne Balfe, who has worked on most of the Zimmer/Howard projects as orchestrator or arranger, composed the scores for all 10 episodes, now airing. I interviewed all three of them for a story about the music — and coaching the actors in playing the violin, Einstein’s instrument of choice — in this week’s Variety.
One of the most startling developments in the burgeoning field of film-music instruction is the “Hans Zimmer Teaches Film Scoring” online primer now available from San Francisco-based MasterClass (which has recently offered videos of Aaron Sorkin teaching screenwriting, Steve Martin teaching comedy, Kevin Spacey teaching acting, etc.). It’s a series of 31 lessons, totaling over four hours, in which Zimmer discusses how he does his work and offers examples from his most famous scores. The Oscar- and Grammy winner launched it at an event on Wednesday in West Hollywood; he talked about his reasons for doing this and a bit about his own mentor, British composer Stanley Myers, in this new interview.