A conversation with Jerry Goldsmith by Allan Bryce
Originally published in Soundtrack Magazine No.25/1981
Text reproduced by kind permission of the editor and publisher, Luc Van de Ven
The following interview took place at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios on March 4. Jerry Goldsmith took time off from his chores on Peter Hyams’ futuristic thriller OUTLAND to discuss some of his recent scores and plans for the immediate future. We talked about his recent career, with the odd comment from Arthur Morton (Goldsmith’s regular orchestrator and friend). Both men were extremely amiable, although the silver-haired composer was selfeffacing about his past work to a point of being almost evasive.
Why did you move back to television in the early Seventies, despite a flourishing career in motion pictures?
I did the theme and part of the first season of THE WALTONS – about six shows. I wasn’t getting any theatrical motion pictures, so basically it was to make money.
One of the more interesting of your telefilms was PURSUIT. Do you remember that one?
That was the first time I worked with Michael Crichton. It wasn’t called PURSUIT in the States, it was called BINARY. (In fact it was based on Crichton’s novel BINARY, written under a pseudonym). I’ve since done COMA and THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY. I’m not doing LOOKER with him though, because I’m doing this picture now, which is a direct conflict. I would be scoring LOOKER in three weeks if I had accepted it, which is virtually impossible since I’m not done with this one yet. I will do his next film, CONGO.
Everyone thought you would be doing SPHINX.
That was a conflict also, with OMEN 3: THE FINAL CONFLICT. I’m doing Schaffner’s next picture, with Pavarotti.
Will that mean you’re going to be writing a lot of opera?
No, I don’t think so – the script’s at home, I haven’t read it yet.
Is that the next film you’re going to score?
No, I’m doing two other pictures. One’s called THE RAGGEDY MAN, with Sissy Spacek. I start that next week. The other one is Disney’s ESCAPE TO THE WEST. It’s very good, very exciting. It’s a story about the family that escaped from East Germany in a hot air balloon – terrific script!
You did one for Disney Studios before…
Years ago. (ONE LITTLE INDIAN, in 1974).
Did you score INCHON? I believe John Williams was going to.
Williams got smart, he got out of it. The film still isn’t finished.
Another CABO BLANCO?
CABO BLANCO is one I’d like to forget – it hasn’t come out anywhere, I think. There was a lot of source music of the 1930’s in the picture. I don’t think there will be much heard of the film.
It’s out in the States, cut down from two hours to an hour and a half. Now, do you do much background research into different musical styles for your films?
I do a certain amount. It’s sort of easier to have something to start with.
What about THE OMEN – your Latin’s good?
No, I got some help from (choral master) John McCarthy with my Latin. He gave me the Latin words and I sort of pushed them around to fit the music.
Tell us a bit about OMEN 3: THE FINAL CONFLICT.
Well, it’s totally different from the other two OMENs. The second one was an adaptation of the first one – it was the same music. This one is totally different, although I do use chorus.
Will there be an album?
We don’t know yet. I hope there is, because it’s a very exciting score.
How does it compare to the other two?
I like it better.
We don’t get any more ‘Americana’ from you… You used to do a lot of Western subjects. They don’t seem popular now.
Michael Cimino made one (Laughs).
Lucky you didn’t get in on that! But I mean the Aaron Copland style that you sometimes adopt. Your score for the telefilm THE MAN was very much Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man.
(To Arthur Morton:) You didn’t do it – I did it myself. I think everybody has made their attempt at their own version of the Fanfare.
What about other influences?
Stravinsky and Bartok, Alban Berg and whatever, whoever…
A couple of your credits confuse a little bit: THE LAST HARD MEN was pieced together with bits of STAGECOACH and 100 RIFLES – what was the reason for that?
Somebody else wrote a score for THE LAST HARD MEN and they didn’t use it. Now, 20th Century-Fox owned all that music anyway, so they just took it and re-recorded themes of both pictures. I was here writing THE OMEN when they did it.
Did the same thing happen on THE CULPEPPER CATTLE CO., because that’s your music from THE FLIM FLAM MAN?
That was during the composers’ strike. I don’t know how that worked, because I was in New York when that happened. But Fox owns the music; they can do whatever they want with it.
Did you have anything to do with KLUTE or S*P*Y*S ?
KLUTE – no. But I scored S*P*Y*S in the United States.
So in England the film has music by John Scott and in America by you…
I never quite figured out how it worked.
I know that Phillip Lambro originally scored CHINATOWN and you were called upon late in the day to salvage things. Has that happened to you recently in any other cases?
What were your problems on STAR TREK?
Lack of time. The special effects just kept coming in dribs and drabs, because they fired the original special effects people and had to start all over again with Douglas Trumbull and John Dykstra and the picture was fifty percent special effects. I saw the whole action in August and finished recording the music December 1st – the film, opened the seventh!
There was talk of a STAR WARS type double album release.
Columbia didn’t want to spend the money, I guess…
One of the stories in circulation says that they wanted to do a lot of disco-type music.
There never was any disco music. Meco did a disco album – which is lousy!
Tell us about MASADA; did Morton Stevens work on this also?
He did the last two episodes. Morton Stevens used my themes and just adapted them. He did four hours of it – I did the first four hours. The score is more ethnic than QB VII and the soundtrack album is all my music.
One of your more obscure films was ACE ELI AND ROGER OF THE SKIES.
That was not a TV movie. It was a theatrical film that did not have much success – you’ve really dug that one up. It played for two days…
Arthur, you worked with Jerry on STAR TREK…
Did he ever!
… But Fred Steiner helped out.
Where does he get all his information?!
You’d be surprised. I have a recording of THE GENERAL WITH THE COCKEYED ID. Does that surprise you?
I’d like to hear how that got out, I’ve heard about it: it’s a real bootleg. I don’t even remember the score. It was twenty years ago. I understand there’s a bootleg of MAGIC too.
Oh? I’ll have to keep an eye out for that one.
There’s a bootleg on RIO CONCHOS with a song on it… I have no idea where that came from.
Think of all the money you could be making.
The bootleg of RIO CONCHOS is off the sound track. They took it off the floor in Paris. You know, when they make a foreign picture they set it without dialogue as a music and effects track, and they took it off the music track: you hear the music go up and down with the sound effects. They get a lot of them from the trailer houses, because they send the quarter inch tape of the whole score to them.
There are albums with tracks from ISLANDS IN THE STREAM…
ISLANDS IN THE STREAM on bootleg too?
It’s quite a business. I hope you save your old albums.
My wife has them all in a vault – a copy of every album.
There are also a lot of Japanese re-issues such as THE SAND PEBBLES and IN HARM’S WAY. Don’t you get any statement about that?
They’re reissuing all sorts of stuff. You go to Paris and you go into a record store and you see all the old Fox scores – a lot of them were never issued as soundtracks in the States. They wanted me to re -record TORA! TORA! TORA! for Japan, which I’m not about to do.
What happened on ALIEN?
They just got used to the pre-tracked score. This happens a lot of times. You try to convince someone not to put music in before, because whether it fits or not, they get used to it. They track mostly with my own music now, but that doesn’t always help.
You seem to do well on films starring Sean Connery.
I’ve done a lot of them, haven’t I? THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY, THE WIND AND THE LION and RANSOM – that was done over here. I had nothing to do with the album. They just kept repeating one track after the other. I don’t think I’ve listened to it more than once.
How about other pictures – any favorites?
I don’t have any favorite films. Either I like them or dislike them… You got a favorite picture, Arthur?
Arthur Morton: The one I make the most money out of? Yes I do have, one of Jerry’s particularly: A PATCH OF BLUE. I loved the film, I loved the score.
Jerry Goldsmith: A very nice picture. No killing! No violence! THE RAGGEDY MAN’s sort of like that.
Sometimes you duck out of some films for various reasons… Can I try these on you? BUTCH AND SUNDANCE: THE EARLY YEARS?
I did MAGIC for Fox instead.
NIGHT OF THE JUGGLER?
I took that but I didn’t like the script. I liked the book, but that was something different.
ESCAPE TO ATHENA?
I didn’t like the script for that either.
So in other words, you must read a script before you definitely accept an assignment.
Sometimes they announce it before I’ve said yes or no. The only time I may accept a movie without looking at a script is if it’s a director like Schaffner or Crichton.
Would you say your style changed toward a more classical one after ISLANDS IN THE STREAM?
The pictures changed! ISLANDS IN THE STREAM was terribly underrated, a beautiful film. Most of the things I do for Schaffner are different.
Soundtrack collectors always get annoyed at the uncertainty of whether or not albums of these scores will be issued …
There will be one on OUTLAND.
Can we just say a few words on what I think is one of your very best scores, THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY…
I like the film – it was terrific fun for me to do. I said to Michael Crichton as we were dubbing, “Can you imagine a bunch of Americans doing a piece of Victorian history? Mind they don’t throw us out of here!” It was a marvellous book.
What has been your “order of work” in the past year or so?
I started MASADA in January and finished in May. Then I went on INCHON right away, and I finished that in August. After that came FINAL CONFLICT, which is why I had no pictures out last year.
And THE SALAMANDER?
Made by the editor of THE DEER HUNTER, Peter Zinner, it’s the first film he’s directed. I loved the book – that’s why I did the film. I love Italy so much. The picture is a little different from the novel, though.
When STAR TREK came out, there was all this publicity about so many single versions of your music…
It just didn’t work out. I made some, but they were terrible.
How’s your son doing?
He’s scoring some surfing picture now, and then he’s going to do a movie called THE BEAST WITHIN for United Artists.
Does he write in any similarity to you?
He tries not to!