It was a pleasure to quiz composer Lorne Balfe about his incredible, grand-scale score for Mission: Impossible — Fallout after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening Dec. 13 on the Paramount lot. Balfe entertained the audience with anecdotes about his collaboration with director Christopher McQuarrie and producer-star Tom Cruise; discussed the months-long gestation and writing process, which involved deconstructing the original Lalo Schifrin themes for adaptation into a completely new score; and talked about the London recordings, which required a massive orchestra and choir and may have been among the most expensive Paramount scores ever recorded.
Composer Lalo Schifrin on Sunday night received an honorary Academy Award “in recognition of his unique musical style, compositional integrity and influential contributions to the art of film scoring.” Actor-director Clint Eastwood, for whom Schifrin composed eight scores (including Dirty Harry and Joe Kidd), presented Schifrin with his Oscar during an entertaining and funny 20-minute segment at the Motion Picture Academy’s 10th annual Governors Awards at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.
Actress Kathy Bates (whose 2004 film The Bridge of San Luis Rey features a Schifrin score) opened the segment, noting that “when the score is in the hands of an artistic master like Lalo Schifrin, a good film can become great and a great film can be transformed into an all-time classic. “His work cannot be easily labeled,” she added. “Is what he creates jazz? Is it classical, contemporary, popular? The answer is yes, it is all of those things. He helped define the music of the ’60s, from The Cincinnati Kid to Bullitt to Cool Hand Luke. And without the cool Mission: Impossible theme, I’m betting Tom Cruise fails in his mission the first time — which means no next five sequels,” she quipped to audience laughter. “[Lalo] is a true Renaissance man: a performer at the piano, a painter with notes, a conductor and composer who has scored some of the most memorable films of the past half-century.”
Bates introduced a six-and-a-half minute film that followed his career from his native Argentina to studies in Paris, joining Dizzy Gillespie in New York, and finally movies in Hollywood (including six Oscar nominations between 1967 and 1983). Academy governors Michael Giacchino and Laura Karpman were interviewed about Schifrin’s impact over the years, and composer Terence Blanchard said “he’s more of an explorer than anything; music happens to be the language he uses.”
Eastwood ignored the teleprompter, instead asking Schifrin to come up because “I want to ask you a couple of questions.” Music director Rickey Minor struck up the composer’s famous Mission: Impossible theme while the honoree made his way to the podium. What followed was an impromptu conversation that contained some of the evening’s funniest moments, as well as a heartfelt outpouring of affection by the hundreds in the star-studded audience.
“We’re both jazz nuts,” Eastwood noted, pointing out that young Schifrin had to pirate jazz LPs into his Buenos Aires home. “Jazz was considered immoral,” Schifrin said. “Well, it is, kinda,” Eastwood responded to audience laughter. “Jazz is the American classical music,” Schifrin said to massive applause. When Eastwood apparently ran out of questions, Schifrin quipped, “It’s very nice talking to you,” to more audience laughter.
“Composing for movies has been a lifetime of joy and creativity,” Schifrin said on a more serious note. “Receiving this honorary Oscar is the culmination of a dream. It is a mission accomplished,” he said to even more cheers and applause.
Fellow honoree Frank Marshall (who, with his wife Kathleen Kennedy, received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award) stopped by Schifrin’s table before the awards ceremony began, as did director Steven Spielberg. Also receiving honorary Oscars Sunday night were actress Cicely Tyson and publicist Marvin Levy. The final moments of Schifrin’s acceptance speech are here. My appreciation of Schifrin’s music, published last week in Variety, is here.
Lalo Schifrin, the Argentine-born composer of Mission: Impossible, Mannix and more than 100 film scores (including Cool Hand Luke, Dirty Harry and The Amityville Horror), will receive an honorary Academy Award on Sunday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ annual Governors Awards. Schifrin, who has been nominated six times but never won, helped usher in a new era of film scoring in the 1960s and ’70s with his seamless mixture of jazz and classical influences. To preview the event, I wrote this appreciation of the composer for Variety (which features a rare photo of him performing with the L.A. Philharmonic in 1971).
Fans of the Mission: Impossible television series of the 1960s probably know that ABC remade the series (with Peter Graves reprising his famous role of Jim Phelps) in 1988-90. What few seem to remember, however, is that Grammy-winning composer Lalo Schifrin (who created the iconic theme and early scores) returned with three new scores. His then-protege Ron Jones came aboard to write even more music after Schifrin’s departure. La La Land Records has unearthed those scores and it was a joy for me to revisit this material after so many years. Lalo updated his Mission theme to incorporate synthesizers and a heavier beat — well worth a listen.
If you’ve seen the latest Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible adventure, Fallout, there are two things you can’t miss: Cruise’s amazing stunts and Lorne Balfe’s musical score. Balfe utilizes Lalo Schifrin’s classic Mission themes in practically every scene. He wrote approximately four hours of music for the film and it took an entire month to record in London, as the composer told me for this Variety story about his nine-month odyssey to create the music with director Christopher McQuarrie (and a little help from Cruise). The Variety piece also includes a wonderful three-minute video shot during the London recordings.
The great Argentinian composer Lalo Schifrin — creator of such classic film and TV themes as Mission: Impossible, Mannix, Cool Hand Luke, Bullitt, Dirty Harry and others — was honored by Steinway and SACEM the same evening in Beverly Hills. First, composer-pianist Jean-Michel Bernard performed many Schifrin tunes for a private audience in the Steinway piano showroom; then the home of French consul general Christophe Lemoine was the setting for a cocktail party and award presentation on behalf of SACEM, the French performing-rights society. Here is a review of the evening’s events.
Renowned film and TV composer Lalo Schifrin turned 85 this year, and the occasion was commemorated Saturday night with a concert featuring many of his memorable themes — everything from Mission: Impossible and Mannix to Bullitt and Dirty Harry. It was a co-production of Musicians at Play Foundation and Varese Live, with proceeds benefiting the Music Fund of Los Angeles. The show consisted of nearly three hours of great big-band performances, beautifully rendered songs and rare video clips of the maestro at work; veteran Varese producer Robert Townson hosted. My review of the evening is here.
For Record Store Day (April 22, 2017), Lalo Schifrin’s Aleph Label issued a handsome, spectacular-sounding 2-LP condensation of his 4-CD My Life in Music collection from 2012, focusing on his work for films and television. I revised my original liner notes for this special, 1,000-copy limited edition, produced by the one and only Nick Redman. Here is the rundown of what’s on it, and for those of you who don’t have the CD box, it’s well worth tracking down for its 1970s Schifrin rarities (including themes from The Beguiled, Charley Varrick and Concorde: Airport ’79). I really love this set, and what a joy it is to drop a needle on a record again…
Mission: Impossible composer Lalo Schifrin says he’s given up scoring movies (maybe!) but, at 84, he is still writing potent music for the classical world. His new guitar concerto, his second for renowned soloist Angel Romero, will debut Tuesday night at the Hollywood Bowl (with Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic). In this piece for the Los Angeles Times, I interviewed the five-time Grammy winner about his concerto, about writing for films vs. the concert hall, and about the enduring legacy of a 1966 TV theme that remains his most famous work. (I also talked to Romero, who laughed and said Schifrin’s guitar writing was “diabolical” — as in difficult.)
Over the past eight years, the Film Music Foundation has been interviewing composers and others active in the movie-music business — getting down their life stories, their career anecdotes, their thoughts about this curious profession. I have been privileged to conduct many of these, and the Foundation (as part of its educational initiative) has now made them available online. Visit the website here — but be ready to spend a lot of time there, because most of these interviews are between two and three hours long! So far, I’ve done songwriters Alan and Marilyn Bergman; and composers Bruce Broughton, Bill Conti, Danny Elfman, Dave Grusin, Maurice Jarre, Laurence Rosenthal and Lalo Schifrin. (Others feature such giants as Patrick Doyle, Johnny Mandel, Van Alexander and Richard Sherman.) Three more interviews are scheduled for the first quarter of 2016.