The Disney-Pixar film Coco is going to be a big hit during the post-Thanksgiving period, and critics are already calling it one of the best animated films of the year. It was an honor to be asked to interview the entire Coco music team Thursday night after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening at the Pacific Design Center. L to R in the photo: co-director, co-songwriter and writer Adrian Molina; songwriter and orchestrator Germaine Franco, whose Mexican-American heritage became a big factor in achieving an authentic sound for this “Day of the Dead”-themed story; composer Michael Giacchino, whose previous five Pixar films include Ratatouille (an Oscar nominee) and Up (an Oscar winner); songwriters Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, whose “Remember Me” is certain to be short-listed for awards this season; and yours truly. A memorable evening.
It was a distinct pleasure to interview composer Alexandre Desplat about his music for The Shape of Water after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the film Wednesday night at the Arclight in Culver City. Desplat, an eight-time Oscar nominee (who won for The Grand Budapest Hotel), is always thoughtful, articulate and witty, and that evening was no exception. He discussed his collaboration with director Guillermo del Toro (their first) and his comments about how the look, feel and sound of water influenced his writing were fascinating. I will write a story for Variety about this in the coming weeks.
A busy week of live audience Q&As after new movie screenings began on Tuesday at the beautiful Zanuck Theatre on the 20th Century-Fox lot. After a showing of the new Kenneth Branagh film Murder on the Orient Express, I interviewed Scottish composer — and longtime Branagh collaborator — Patrick Doyle about his score, and original song, for the film. Doyle is a delightful raconteur and the Society of Composers & Lyricists audience left informed and entertained. Composer John Powell, an old friend and colleague from late 1980s London, was also there and brought down the house with a few well-chosen quips.
On Monday night, it was my pleasure to lead a Q&A with composer Michael Giacchino after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of his latest film, War for the Planet of the Apes, on the 20th Century-Fox lot. It is Giacchino’s second film in the Apes series (after Dawn, in 2014) and his fourth film with director Matt Reeves (the Apes movies, Let Me In and Cloverfield). The composer reported that 90% of the score — played by a massive orchestra and choir on the Fox scoring stage — was original, and he even came with props: the mixing bowl used by percussionist Emil Richards on Jerry Goldsmith’s original 1968 Planet of the Apes, and a ram’s horn that he played himself on both of his Apes scores.
Yes, those final moments of Sunday’s Oscarcast were bizarre and won’t soon be forgotten. But, that aside, there were a lot of great musical moments in the broadcast and we recount them all here — the wins by the La La Land team for score and song, the performances of all five nominated songs, the beautiful “In Memoriam” performance, and more. Plus a rundown of Saturday’s always-entertaining Society of Composers & Lyricists champagne reception for Oscar music nominees.
I have interviewed composer Michael Giacchino for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and, most often, for Variety. Yesterday was a rare instance of me doing so in a public forum. Giacchino (whose 2016 films already included Star Trek Beyond, Zootopia and Doctor Strange) joined me onstage at the Linwood Dunn theater in Hollywood for a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. As always, he was candid and funny, talking about the rushed schedule, finding the right John Williams-style sound for the film, and his plans for next year (which include Spider Man: Homecoming and War for the Planet of the Apes).
It was a distinct honor to be asked to interview legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach Wednesday night before a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the new film Po, about a single father struggling to raise his autistic son. Joining me onstage was director John Asher, who himself has an autistic son — and whose accidental meeting of Bacharach on a plane a few months ago led the three-time Oscar winner (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Arthur) to decide not just to write a song for Po but to score the entire film. Bacharach told the tragic story of his own daughter Nikki, born prematurely in 1966 and who was only diagnosed late in life as autistic; she committed suicide in 2007. I’ll be writing in more depth about Bacharach and his score later this month for Variety.
John Debney is one of Hollywood’s finest composers and a really super guy to boot. I’ve known him for more than 20 years and his output contains many wonderful scores (as diverse as The Passion of the Christ and The Princess Diaries, not to mention Elf and Dreamer). On Monday I was pleased to moderate a discussion about the music of Disney’s The Jungle Book with Debney, original Jungle Book songwriter Richard Sherman, and director Jon Favreau. Debney and Sherman told surprising and funny stories about Debney’s youth, hanging around the Disney lot (his dad worked there) and meeting the famous Sherman Brothers in the mid-1960s. Favreau’s own comments demonstrated a genuine appreciation for Debney’s artistry. The Society of Composers & Lyricists audience was warm and welcoming.
Last night I moderated a Q&A with top film composer Hans Zimmer, top songwriter-producer Pharrell Williams and their talented collaborator Benjamin Wallfisch, whose combined talents resulted in the score for an upcoming film, Hidden Figures. It’s the amazing untold story of three African-American women whose math and engineering skills helped catapult the United States into the space race in the early 1960s. I think it will stun a lot of people when it opens at Christmas. The Society of Composers & Lyricists sponsored the screening, and the lively discussion that followed featured Williams discussing his original songs, and Zimmer and Wallfisch talking about how they were further inspired by both the story and Williams’ ’60s-style sounds.
It was a joy to host the Sunday Q&A with the braintrust behind the music of Disney’s new animated Moana, which I believe will be a big hit for the studio. After the Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the film at Pacific Design Center, I quizzed Tony-winning Hamilton genius Lin-Manuel Miranda, Samoan-born singer-songwriter Opetaia Foa’i, score composer Mark Mancina, and Disney music producer Tom MacDougall, about how the songs and score came about; about their commitment to authenticity in conveying the music of South Pacific cultures; and just how Miranda managed to juggle Hamilton and Moana at the same time. These guys were informative, candid and funny. Here, incidentally, is the story I wrote for Variety about the songs and score.