A conversation with composer Pino Donaggio and director David Schmoeller by Marco Werba
Originally published in CinemaScore #15, 1986/1987
Text reproduced by kind permission of the editor and publisher Randall D. Larson
In 1979 you wrote an interesting score for TOURIST TRAP, a film produced by Charles Band and directed by David Schmoeller. Now, after a few years, Band again called you to work with him. Why has it been so long since you have worked together?
Donaggio: Band met again with Schmoeller and they decided together to call me. After TOURIST TRAP, Schmoeller did another film called THE SEDUCTION with another producer. I saw David a couple of times while I was working for Brian De Palma, and since I found that TOURIST TRAP, even with a small budget, was an interesting film, and that David was a talented director, I had in mind to work with him again. So when David got in touch with Band to do this film, I had the opportunity to work with them both again. Besides CRAWLSPACE, David has two other movies to do with Band.
Schmoeller: Yes, I have to direct HUNTRESS and MONSTER PARK (now called BLOODLESS).
Are you satisfied with the music Donaggio write for your film, TOURIST TRAP?
Schmoeller: Oh yes.
Are there any similarities between TOURIST TRAP and the new film, CRAWLSPACE?
Schmoeller: No. Both the story and the music are quite different.
The music for your film, SEDUCTION, was composed by Lalo Schifrin. Why not Donaggio?
Schmoeller: Because the producer didn’t want him. He wanted an American composer.
Donaggio: It happens sometimes that a director has more confidence in an American composer with whom he can work side by side. Instead, I come with the score finished and there’s little possibility of changing it while I’m at the recording studio.
Do you think that your collaboration with Schmoeller and Band will become as important as the one you have with De Palma?
Donaggio: I don’t know. Yesterday, Band came to listen to the music I recorded here at the Forum studios for David’s film and he was very satisfied. He told me that, probably, there will be the possibility of doing films with a larger budget later on (around $8 million). We have to discuss this at Cannes. Band started with his company, Empire Pictures, doing small budget movies and he is slowly producing a lot of films with larger budgets now. He is already writing contracts with Al Pacino and Stallone. He bought a castle where he can shoot movies and organize meetings. But he still lives in Los Angeles and comes here to work.
What can you tell us about CRAWLSPACE and the music you wrote for it?
Donaggio: It’s a scary story developed around air conditioning passages. A maniac, played by Klaus Kinski, rents apartments to young, beautiful girls and then kills them. About the music, I must say that it is very strong and uses a lot of electronics in addition to the orchestra. Since my first movie, DON’T LOOK NOW, and recently for BODY DOUBLE, I have already used electronic instruments. But here I did a more complex work. I recorded an electronic musical “carpet” with the computer that took me some days of work. Then Natale Massara came to conduct the orchestra while this electronic “carpet” was in the background. In the film there is a relation to German war camps, and David needed a girl singing in Hebrew. I used electronics under an orchestra of 60 players and the feminine voice — strings, 4 trombones, 4 horns, 2 flutes, bass clarinet, etc.
How much music did you write for the film?
Donaggio: About 80, 90 minutes of music.
Natale Massara conducted it, as he has with most of your scores.
Donaggio: Yes. But the music I recently did for MGM’s THE FIFTH MISSILE was conducted instead by Gianfranco Plenizio, not Massara.
Tell us something about that score.
Donaggio: The film is about a nuclear submarine. The story is very interesting since it underlines the reaction of the sailors during a nuclear experiment that for most of them becomes real and dangerous. Musically, the score is quite different from anything I have done before, since I used a military rhythm under the orchestra. Despite this, there is my style throughout the score and particularly for the underwater sequences while strange events are happening in the submarine. I also used a 60-piece orchestra, perfectly conducted by Plenizio. The film was made for television, so unfortunately there is no record of the music.
What about your new projects?
Donaggio: I have to score HOTEL COLONIAL with John Savage, Robert Duvall and Massimo Troisi. After that, Band and Schmoeller will write the two other scripts and I will again start working for them!