Danny Elfman onto the Action-Adventure Battlefield

An Interview with Danny Elfman by Chris Cutter
Written and Transcribed by Rudy Koppl
Originally published in Soundtrack Magazine Vol.21/No.82/2002
Text reproduced by kind permission of the editor, Luc Van de Ven and Rudy Koppl

spiderman

SPIDER-MAN has broken every box office record by grossing one hundred and fifteen million dollars on its opening weekend as well as being the number one film for two weeks in a row. It is the fastest selling film to ever break the two hundred million dollar mark within two weeks of its release date. SPIDER-MAN’s popularity is mesmerizing and its overwhelming success was totally unpredictable.

As Elfman remembered, “Who could ever anticipate that? I gave Sam a big speech before it opened to diminish his expectations because it was tracking really well and I told him, ‘Sam, I worked on a lot of movies that track well and they did well, but they didn’t do that well. Better to lower your expectations than to expect something huge that doesn’t get delivered.’ Then I called him up after it broke all those records the first weekend and said, ‘Aren’t you glad I gave you that talk about lowered expectations because it didn’t do that well and you don’t feel as bad, right?’ He just laughed.”

It was twelve years ago when Danny Elfman created his first film score for director Sam Raimi, on DARKMAN. “I really enjoyed working on DARKMAN,” Elfman said enthusiastically. “That was great. It was my first time actually writing a real melodramatic score. I love writing in that style.” Since then Danny’s collaborations with Sam have led to scoring for ARMY OF DARKNESS (Danny wrote the theme, ‘March of the Dead’), A SIMPLE PLAN, and now SPIDER-MAN. It’s been a little over three weeks since SPIDER-MAN’s release on May 3rd, and so far Raimi’s $140 million dollar comic book extravaganza has made over $334 million. There was a sense that the film would be a box office hit, but no one really knew how far it would go. SPIDER-MAN has become so popular that Sony has already signed Sam Raimi to direct SPIDER-MAN 2. Co-producer Grant Curtis confirms that preproduction has begun for a May, 2004 release.

MEN IN BLACK came out the 6th of July in 1997 and grossed over eighty four million dollars on its opening weekend. So far it remains the 13th highest moneymaking film of all time, earning $587,200,000 worldwide. Director Barry Sonnenfeld’s Oscar winning film garnered three Academy Award nominations, including Elfman’s first Oscar nomination for best music – the same year he was nominated for best music for GOOD WILL HUNTING. Danny was also nominated for a Grammy for his distinctly creative main theme to MEN IN BLACK. Sony’s MEN IN BLACK II will open in America on July 3rd, and once again the director’s only choice, Danny Elfman, is scoring Barry Sonnenfeld’s science fiction comedy thrill ride redux.

Elfman finished mixing down MEN IN BLACK II on Monday, May 13th. On Wednesday afternoon, May the 15th, just hours before he was to receive The Richard Kirk Award at the annual BMI Dinner that was to take place at The Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., I talked with a man who has dedicated 22 years of his life to scoring film after film. It was an epic journey for Elfman whose latest efforts, SPIDER-MAN and MEN IN BLACK II, were back-to-back scoring assignments of the frantic kind; and still left on his agenda was director Brett Ratner’s cinematic interpretation of Hannibal Lecter’s beginning, Universal’s RED DRAGON.

“I see the three films together as one big onslaught with three parts to the battle,” observed Elfman. “I’ve just won the second battle, and I’m catching my breath before I launch my next campaign. Every film score for me is a battlefield that I mayor may not survive!” But somehow, through the battles, the composer maintains his sense of humor and interests outside the scoring world. Even during the SPIDER-MAN mixing sessions, Danny had been sent a picture of a mummy’s hand to consider purchasing it. Elfman is an avid collector of ancient artefacts and articles from the beyond as he confirms, “I went to New York and saw it, but I actually didn’t get it. I’m always looking for stuff like that. I’m into all types of artefacts.” Even the beloved directors he works with are amused by his interests, as Barry Sonnenfeld commented at the BMI dinner: “Danny does have this shrunken head collection.” However, with his back-to-back to back schedule, it’s hard realizing when Danny can appreciate his artefacts, let alone even find time for an interview, but it’s his love and passion for film music that relentlessly drives him forward.

Composer Danny Elfman: Part One

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What do you love about film scoring?
I just love it when it works. When it’s a difficult film and I’ve nailed it, that’s my best feeling. It’s an unusual moment. It could even be just part of a scene where I get a feeling that maybe I nailed that moment better than anybody else could have, that I’ve really got it. That’s the highest moment for me.

This year your scoring schedule is relentless. How do you keep up scoring such high profile pictures as SPIDER-MAN, MEN IN BLACK II, and then RED DRAGON, one after another?
This year was a relentless year. I really try hard to keep them from becoming this way, but sometimes it just happens anyhow. With close to fifty films, I’ve only had overlaps, like what happened with SPIDER-MAN and MEN IN BLACK II, only one other time. I’m usually really fastidious about not letting things get too close and especially never letting things overlap, but you can’t control film schedules.

Do you really only want to score two films a year and develop other projects?
Yes. I had two pictures for this year, which were SPIDER-MAN and RED DRAGON, MEN IN BLACK II was the anomaly because (a): I’m usually not interested in scoring a sequel. I’ve only done one, BATMAN RETURNS, and (b): it didn’t look like there was time in my schedule to do it anyhow. But then when I looked at it I thought, “Well, it’s pretty tight, but on the other hand, because it’s a sequel, maybe I can pull it off because there’s those extra couple of weeks of thematic development that I don’t need as intensely as I normally would.” I ended up squeezing MEN IN BLACK II in for two reasons only; one, because they were both Sony and they both knew how intense the two schedules were, so nobody could kill me if it ended up that SPIDER-MAN ran late, overlapping the other. When you have two different studios to deal with, I don’t like that kind of thing. Sony knew the situation up front, so they were completely happy to take their chances; and B, because it was a sequel, I was more relaxed. Just in case one did topple onto the other, I thought I could still deal with it and not short change it. In fact it worked out just exactly like we were hoping it wouldn’t, but were prepared for, which was that SPIDER-MAN ran two weeks late and went right over the beginning of MEN IN BLACK II, but by the time I got going in MEN IN BLACK III was so comfortable with the tone of the film, I knew it so well, I didn’t freak out like I might have.

You’ve worked with directors Sam Raimi and Barry Sonnenfeld before, each time you work with a director on his next film, does it become easier because of an instilled trust?
It becomes easier in one of the three processes that I would divide a score into in terms of its challenges. Two of them remain the same, whether it’s Tim Burton or someone unknown. It doesn’t matter if I’ve worked with a director nine times or no times, the process of scoring a big film is excruciating difficult regardless of the director. A big action score is always the most exhausting for me because of the way I score action is very time-consuming and exhausting.
The second part is the development of thematic ideas, the tone of the film, and that’s the same whether it’s a new or older director. That’s actually the hardest part of the process for me, where I get the most insane, grumpy, and weird. It’s where I’m diving in, trying to really capture it, feel it, and find the tone. I’m trying out all these ideas and ideas that lead to other ideas, that’s the most frustrating and in the end the most rewarding because that’s where you nail it or you don’t. If you don’t have the tone to the film it’s just a bunch of music.
Third is getting inside the director’s head and selling what you believe is the correct score and tone to the director, and that can be a real task. That part gets easier, so unfortunately on a big film that’s usually the least time-consuming part of it, but at least when I’m working with a director for the second time; I don’t have to go through that uncertainty.

SPIDER-MAN and MEN IN BLACK II are both action / adventure / sci-fi oriented films. Do you think a composer is expected to create a wall-to-wall score for this type of genre?
If I were calling the shots from my perspective, I would have at least a third less music than there is, sometimes even half. The expectations and what they’ve become tend to require music that’s almost wall-to-wall. I go in prepared for that, even though I frequently may suggest to a director that music might not be necessary in certain places of the film. Directors tend to feel, “Oh my God, no. If the scene doesn’t quite play, it needs help.” Almost every director is like that and because the genre dictates a lot of music and because audiences are used to it, they’re hesitant to leave music out of a whole sequence. Convincing a director or a studio that silence is more effective in a scene can be very challenging. Very often the biggest disagreement I might have with a director on a score is simply their wanting as much music as they want. Sometimes the studio will even want music if there’s nothing in a scene. It’s only when a director really doesn’t want it that it won’t happen.
I was incredibly grateful in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE with Brian DePalma having that long sequence where Tom Cruise is lowered on a wire, clearly this sequence works better without music. It was a ballsy move because to do that entire sequence dead silent, and there are no sound effects to cover it up, was for that genre pretty outrageous. I didn’t want to score that sequence. I thought silence was the best thing, so when he elected for silence I was grateful, because anything I would have written would have made it less effective. Also because there was almost no sound, that’s why it’s so risky. The danger was that someone might laugh, make a noise, and everybody in the whole theatre would chuckle or something. Sometimes people are afraid of silence just not wanting that to happen, but there’s a moment where the director felt that no music was necessary. I remember being very relieved that I did not have to score that particular scene.

Director Sam Raimi

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When you think of the director of SPIDER-MAN, there’s only one Sam Raimi. The world of film began for this soft-spoken visionary many years ago when he was just a child. “My father, Leonard Raimi, used to take 16mm home movies of the family at birthday parties and when I would watch them projected on the wall, I was over whelmed by his magical ability to capture reality and replay it,” Raimi said, explaining how it all started. “After the film was developed, he would splice it together, but the time sequence was shuffled. Like the first roll would be the kids blowing out the candles on the cake and unwrapping the presents and then the second roll would be the kids arriving for the birthday party, they were spliced in a backwards order. To see that you could not only capture reality, but then re-juxtapose its sequencing, was mind-boggling to me.” Little did Sam realize, but years later he was about to become the director of one of the highest grossing films of all time. “It just happened to the right guy and it’s not a case where somebody stumbled into something mega,” commented Danny Elfman on Raimi’s overwhelming success. “He’s worked close to twenty years, paid his dues, and he’s the nicest guy on the planet, so it could not be happening to a greater guy and not somebody so green that they don’t deserve this. It’s not one of those pure luck things of stumbling into something, but not having the experience to deal with it. Sam put a lot of himself into it, he’s been paying for it through the years, and it’s so great this happened.”

Calling Elfman’s music for SPIDER-MAN “rousing and uplifting,” director Raimi said, “… I feel like he always waits for the film and the audience to create a feeling together. I think what Danny does is he gently carries the audience to that next place – but he allows them to do the work. He has the unique ability to create a soul to his music. He’s a genius, he really is, and when you listen to his music and the diversity of it and how successful it is with the images, I don’t know if there’s a better word to describe him.” And that’s exactly what successful film music is all about to this director. As Raimi so accurately puts it, “It’s the glue that pulls everything together and makes it stick, all these desperate elements that were pre-floating in the scene, it binds them all together. Beyond the glue it’s the soul. It carries the audience on its wings to places of emotion; it uplifts them, and transcends the visuals in an elegant way when it’s done right.”

Even when talking to Sam months before starting to film SPIDER-MAN, the faith of the composer-director relationship was revealed. It was a forgone conclusion that Raimi wanted only one composer to sonically accompany his translation of a comic book masterpiece to the big screen – Danny Elfman. “We’ve got the poor bastard signed and he can’t get out!” verified Sam.

The Scoring Process: SPIDER-MAN and MEN IN BLACK II

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Danny Elfman’s method of scoring a picture is quite interesting. He usually starts the process by musically experimenting with ideas, depending upon how much time he has to score the picture. After this period, Elfman thematically defines three or more parts in the film, usually being from the beginning, middle, and the end, to get the feeling and direction of his score. Then he lets this basic body of work lead him through the picture, from beginning to end, with the possibility of spontaneously creating the unpredictable within his work.

How much experimentation did you get to do based on the time you had to score SPIDER-MAN?
I had quite a bit of time on SPIDER-MAN because I really had to nail that one. There was a part of it where I just didn’t quite have it. I wrote the Goblin’s theme and I was real happy with that, that’s still my favorite part of the score. I wrote the heroic, flying Spider-Man theme and I felt good about that. I wrote the love theme, tried that out, but then as I got into more of the story, with Peter Parker and his own relationship with his step-father, that kind of unsure part of his own character, the heroic Spider-Man theme wasn’t really playing it. At a certain point I was pushing this difficult part while I was running out of time and trying to use certain elements to solve my problem. Meanwhile I had eight to ten variations on the Spider-Man theme, but none of them were working. It was like pushing a square peg in a round hole and Sam was reacting that way by responding, “This scene, I’m just not sure,” and I had to agree with him. I couldn’t try to stall him on it because he was right.
Then out of a variation of a variation I came upon this second theme and I realized suddenly that this was playing Peter Parker. Then it all made sense that Spider-Man didn’t have one theme. So the solution ended up being very simple, but it just wasn’t very obvious in the beginning, He had two parts to his character and he had two themes. One played him as a flying entity swinging to the rescue and the other played the more personal human side of his emotion. It played his stepfather, played him in doubt. It ended up where every time I played one theme, a few notes of the other would come in. They ended up becoming almost inseparable in a weird way; that was an evolution that happened on its own, but that’s common to my process. As I follow my instincts, sometimes I can find myself switching from one tone to another. If that’s what I feel, it’s probably correct and it doesn’t have to have a reason for happening, so in the end SPIDER-MAN ended up being four themes, not three.

Did you need to experiment again since you’d already scored the original MEN IN BLACK?
This part of the process was really more about SPIDER-MAN than MEN IN BLACK II because I’d already been through this on the first MEN IN BLACK, which was really trying to capture the tone of the movie. This deals with the camp nature of the film, the humor and masculinity that Barry (Sonnenfeld) wanted, that kind of manliness, and everything playing together on a tightrope. With comedy and quirky movies, it’s the most precarious tightrope to be on. You go a little too far one way and you’ve wrecked it. You can go too far into seriousness, earnestness, or whimsy, you always have to keep that balance alive, and so these are the hardest kind of films to score.
I’d already been through that process on MEN IN BLACK. When I started MEN IN BLACK II I felt like I knew it, it was like an old friend, I just dove right in aggressively because I knew this animal. It was the same way I did BATMAN the second time, I’d already gone through the torture and this was like an animal that I’d already tamed in my own mind. Even though it had its own challenges, I had to find all the variations to make it feel like its own score and not make it sound like I needle dropped from the first score, but this doesn’t involve that lion taming part of the process, of trying to figure out, “What is this animal?”

If you’re picking out scenes or parts from the beginning, middle, and end of the film to start scoring with, what parts in SPIDER-MAN did you use to establish your themes with?
In SPIDER-MAN it was easy because the scenes that clearly were the crux of the score and the melodic point of the characters was the first time he really begins flying, when he masters the web and he’s actually flying for the first time. That’s the first time we’re really going to hear his heroic theme play against him. Then there were two other big crucial scenes that I worked on simultaneously; one was his stepfather dying when he’s shot, his reaction to that, and then the scene of him walking away from Mary Jane at the end, when he’s giving his last monologue. I knew that those two were linked, so I worked with those two ideas simultaneously back to back. Third, I also played a large and a smaller version of the same thing – it was that key romantic scene where Spider-Man, upside down, was kissing Mark Jane, but I also played that during the first scene in the backyard… It’s like I always do, here’s the two extremes of the same scene, one has to be very light, one has to be very romantic, whatever I come up with has to play both. So I take the same idea and ask if it can play both scenes. Can the Peter Parker theme play the moment where he looks up from his stepfather’s death and can it play that ultimate moment before the finale, where he’s walking towards us and you want to feel a little shiver when he’s walking away from Mary and he’s talking right to the camera? That was probably the single most critical moment for the score in the whole movie. Whatever theme I play there, the audience have to feel that it can’t be something they’re hearing for the first time.
The whole point of a good film score in that genre is to plant your seeds and to make your audience not even aware of the fact that they’re hearing the themes sometimes in part, sometimes fully, sometimes just notes of it, so by the time when you get to your finale, where you’ve got to grab them, as soon as that theme starts to play, they don’t even know that they know it backwards and forwards. To me that’s the skill of classical film composition, meaning old school. That’s what the masters did so beautifully, they planted those seeds and by the end of the movie you know the theme so well.
When I’m watching a big movie, I have a litmus test. If I get an hour into the film and I suddenly realize that I don’t know what the first and secondary major thematic pieces are, the composer blew it. It’s too late to be feeding it to me for the first time now and be expecting me to know it like an old friend thirty minutes from now. The skill is how you can weave it in early and make it so by the end you really know it, but at the same time try to make it not so obvious like other scores that go to the other extreme. I try not to be guilty of that, but sometimes it’s hard. You can feel like you’re ramming the whole movie down their throat, so by the time it gets to the end, as certain very obvious directors will do who I won’t mention, I’m hearing a theme and I go, “Give me a break.”
I saw where we were going around a corner a mile before I get there because the music’s already laying it on so thick, I feel like I’m being pushed instead of led. On one extreme, you don’t want it to be so vague that you don’t know it by the time you get there, on the other hand, you don’t want to be so obvious that you feel like you’re being shoved and you’re starting to dig your heels in. Some directors’ movies will make me do this in the way they use music and then I actually start to resist the emotions because I’m feeling like I’ve been shoved so hard.

What parts did you establish for your thematic work in MEN IN BLACK II?
MEN IN BLACK II is all about levels of whimsy. It’s that fine line between having an aggressive, masculine thing that always runs with these two guys, but also keeps that bit of cynicism and whimsy alive. It’s trying to keep the movie popping, alive, moving with momentum, and keep the attitude of it going throughout. There was a new theme that I had to write for the romantic part between Will Smith and his love interest, Rosario Dawson; this had to come in at the end of the movie as a big piece, so I still had to develop it. But the main part of the score is playing Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, and that’s certainly whimsical, masculine, campy, because that’s what it’s all about. How they interrelate is what makes this movie work.
Because it was a sequel, I really only had this one thematic piece that I had to try out, so there were two scenes that I would work again back-to-back with the one theme. There’s a scene with Will Smith and Rosario Dawson in a diner, it’s the first time you start to feel like he’s falling for her. There’s this key scene at the end, it’s this big, romantic, goodbye scene, and it’s going to have to come back and play big, so I played those two back to back till I feel like I had that nailed. There was really no reason for me to experiment with playing the MEN IN BLACK theme against Will and Tommy being the Men in Black, because I knew that like the back of my hand.

After you’ve established your basic themes and go back to score the picture from start to finish, getting your initial ideas lead you, what unexpected melodies or bits did you find happening in SPIDER-MAN?
It was really how my themes played off each other that was my big surprise. How I thought I was in the middle of this one heroic piece and suddenly this other theme, the Peter Parker theme, was playing, but it was playing almost heroically, but different. It was playing another side of the character and ended up even working itself into the main titles that way, where the one theme just played into the other, so that was the part that was unplanned. I didn’t expect the ‘Spider-Man Saving The Day’ theme to work always together into his ‘Humanity’ theme, even to the point where the main titles ended with the secondary theme, which I totally wasn’t planning on doing.

Did anything spontaneous come out of MEN IN BLACK II?
The spontaneity there was just kind of the playfulness while they were working, talking, and driving around; by taking their theme and really just have a blast doing just fun little variations of little twists and turns. Playing it light, playing it heavy, leaving a hole here or there, it was much more subtle, but it was actually quite fun. MEN IN BACK II is actually a monothematic movie; there are really only variations on one theme that plays primarily the whole film. It’s a different animal, a comedy. Even with the villain who had a theme, Lara Flynn Boyle, we’re not supposed to feel like she’s really going to kill Will and Tommy, whereas we are supposed to feel that the Goblin could kill Spidey, even though we know he won’t. It’s a difference in tone, one is playing high drama in the battle sequences, while MEN IN BLACK II always had a little bit in the fighting sequences of their tongue in the cheek. When Will Smith is riding a giant worm through the subway tunnels and it’s an action scene, we’re not supposed to really think that the worm is going to kill him. It’s a romp, it’s fun, it’s for our pure pleasure and amusement

Director Barry Sonnenfeld

Barry-Sonnenfeld

He’s directed the comedies THE ADDAMS FAMILY, GET SHORTY, and now MEN IN BLACK I and II. With an insight into comedic film making, this director is lively and outgoing with a fantastic sense of humor. When Barry Sonnenfeld gets together with the composer he works with, he’s a laugh riot. As confirmed by his presence at the BMI dinner honoring Danny Elfman for “Outstanding Career Achievement”, when Sonnenfeld took the stage with Danny, director Brett Ratner, and BMl’s Frances W. Preston and Doreen Ringer Ross, his commentary was hysterical, you just couldn’t stop laughing.

As Elfman stepped up onto the stage to receive his Richard Kirk Award to the musical strains of Dingo Boingo’s ‘Dead Man’s Party’, the festivities had kicked into full gear. As the music faded down, Barry was the first one to speak, “About two weeks ago I made the mistake of going to the SPIDER-MAN premiere and sitting next to Danny. So as all you composers know, you’re sitting next to the composer of the movie and for two hours Danny is saying things to me like, “Too much wind. Why did the guns make that noise? It’s obvious he’s flying, you don’t need to hear him flying,” and literally for two hours it’s nothing but complaining. Now Danny says, “Look, I’m getting this award, I’d like you to say a few words.” Elfman humorously responds, “Boy, do I regret it.” A little further into Sonnenfeld’s hysterical homage to Elfman came his funniest statement of all, “I had no idea Danny had done all these other scores, I assumed, being Jewish, he had only worked for me! I’m now so amazed at the range of what he does. You look at the body of his work and it’s heroic, funny, light, touching, and yet every one of those scores sound just like Danny’s, even if they’re totally different, yet unique.”

The forty-nine-year-old Sonnenfeld equates his blockbuster MEN IN BLACK to a remake of THE FRENCH CONNECTION as a comedy with aliens. He has been a cinematographer, producer, and director throughout his career. He’s produced nine films since his first, GET SHORTY in 1995, he’s directed eight films since his first, THE ADDAMS FAMILY in 1981, and was the cinematographer since 1982 on such films as BLOOD SIMPLE, BIG, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, and MISERY. In 1996 Steven Spielberg asked Sonnenfeld to direct the first MEN IN BLACK, which went on to break numerous box office records and won an Academy Award. This is when Sonnenfeld needed a unique, zany, action oriented, comedy style score for his film, so he hired composer Danny Elfman. Five years later when it came time to score the sequel, it was a forgone conclusion for Sonnenfeld that Elfman would score his upcoming MEN IN BLACK II and he’d have it no other way.

Composer Danny Elfman: Part Two

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From spotting to the scoring stage, what do you think is the most critical stage that makes your score succeed?
The recording part is really technical. The writing of it is the critical part, and the dubbing of it is where it gets destroyed, so those are the two critical moments. That’s where all the power, the passion, and the energy, will get washed away or eroded, if it’s going to happen, which doesn’t happen all the time. That’s ninety per cent of it, the writing of the music capturing it and then hoping it survives the incredibly complex process of the dub. This was why about five years ago I really started thinking of giving up on the action / adventure genre, but I found myself still doing them reluctantly. A lot has to do with what film it is and who’s directing it. I’ve been trying to do a moratorium, so next year you won’t see me scoring action / adventure films and really trimming way back on it for the next five years, ten years, or for the rest of my career, however long that is.

How do you know when you’ve created a successful cue or when a symbiosis has been created between music and film?
When it happens it’s a feeling of intense relief. Until I get that and nail it, I‘m really in a hyper state. I just can’t relax or sleep very well. It doesn’t matter what the film is, it could be the dumbest little film or the biggest, heaviest film, but I get the same on every score, on every film. I don’t like being in that state. I’m really edgy. My brain is trailing all the time, I really have a hard time concentrating, and stuff hits me when I least expect it. I could be in a car driving or be in the middle of dinner with somebody and suddenly I’m just off. I hate being in that space, but it’s an essential part of the process. It’s very similar to when somebody who’s an inventor or a mathematician is just obsessed with finding the answer to some calculation and it’s driving them crazy. Of course they pop up in the middle of the night and suddenly I get the answer, it’s an immense relief.

What is the most important element in the director I composer collaboration?
For me it’s the director allowing me to do what I do, to bring my thoughts into it and not try to harness me too much. If they want to get a really good score, they have to allow me to stretch out. If they’re really nervous about everything all the time, I’m going to have to contain myself and they are not going to get my best work, so that’s the most important part.

When you get to the scoring stage, how much do you wind up moulding and shaping the score you’ve written to fit the film?
I change things in the dynamics of the orchestra a lot. First off, there are some areas that will just come out sounding wrong, so I have to clean it up. Sometimes I have too many ideas going at the same time and it’s just not working. There’s a lot of dynamics in terms of a section that’s on paper and they’re playing it bigger and it just really shouldn’t be that big. There’s a lot of shaping, because it’s gone from a synthesizer piece to ninety humans in a room. There are areas where I’ll hit a section that isn’t working because I’ve made something unclear, muddy, or hit something not strong enough or too strong in a way, so I’ll pull material out. I tend usually to overwrite, not underwrite, so I’m essentially taking things out. I prefer when the piece gets to the stage that it’s just a bit more than I want and I’ll trim it back as opposed to the other way around.

After writing around fifty film scores, does it get easier or harder? It seems like every time you finish one film, you then begin another and instant inspiration is the order of the moment.
It doesn’t get easier. I can tell you that for an absolute fact. It amazes me how not easier it gets! After twenty years on stage, walking out on a stage, initial anxiety and stage fright are never diminished either.

What are your future scoring plans?
After RED DRAGON I have no films scheduled next year or the end of this year at all right now.

How is your twisted script coming along?
I have a very, very twisted script and I’m getting back to that right now, in fact I’m working on it this week. It’s called UNDYING LOVE. It’s absolutely the most romantic necrophilia love story ever told. If it gets made I’ll direct it.

A special note

A special note of thanks goes out to those who made this article possible: Erin Dogan (Assistant Jeff Ammer – Sony Marketing), Nathan Marcy (Sony Publicist), Teni Khachaturian (Sony Publicity), Ian Shine (Assistant Sony Publicity), Chris Cutter (Journalist), Ford Thaxton (Contributing Editor), Grant Curtis (Co-Producer on Spider-Man), Hanna Bolte and Doreen Ringer Ross (BMI Publicity), Chris Iverson (Danny Elfman’s Assistant), Mark Northam (Publisher Film Music Magazine), Directors Sam Raimi and Barry Sonnenfeld, plus composer Danny Elfman. – CC & RK.

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