John Milius on Basil Poledouris

An Interview with John Milius by Rudy Koppl / Edited by Randall Larson
Originally published in Soundtrack Magazine Vol.16/No.64/1997
Text reproduced by kind permission of the editor, Luc Van de Ven and Rudy Koppl

John Milius

How did you meet Basil?
He and I went to school together at U.S.C. I was there for two years, around ‘65 or ‘66 I think.

What films has he scored for you?
All of my films except THE WIND AND THE LION and DILLINGER because they wouldn’t let him then. And the one I just finished, THE ROUGH RIDERS, he didn’t score because Verhoeven wouldn’t let him. He scored BIG WEDNESDAY, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, RED DAWN, FAREWELL TO THE KING, and FLIGHT OF THE INTRUDER.

Which of these films did he score most effectively for you?
My favorites are CONAN and FAREWELL TO THE KING. These are lush melodic scores with enough music in there for five movies. There are enough themes for five movies and they’re particularly gorgeous scores which you can listen to forever.

Do Basil’s scores satisfy you vision as a filmmaker?
Totally. It’s really hard to think of anybody else. When I have to go use somebody else it’s always very strange. The perfect music for my movies is Basil’s music. He totally understands it.

How is Basil’s technique different to other composers you’ve hired?
We sit around and play things on the piano after the script’s written, until we get themes we like. Basil has a vast amount of creativity, so he has much to draw from. He can come up with a lot of different things and throw them away. Nothing is precious, there’s lots corning from the fountain.

What do you find unique about Basil?
He has this incredible romanticism in his scores and heart. It’s just beautiful to listen to and so effective.

Would you hire him in the future?
Immediately, of course. I got a very good score for my last film (ROUGH RIDERS) from Peter and Elmer Bernstein, but you know Basil, he’s family. I can do things and I can just do it on the spur of the moment as a writer. He’s like that as a composer. Most writers and most composers are very precious and very careful about their work because they get it all down there and they write it down on three by three cards and stuff, writers anyway. It’s all very precious because they took so much time to create it. It doesn’t take Basil anytime to create something, it’s there.

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