Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Carter Burwell on Scoring the Coen Bros True Grit

more from the Nashville Film Festival

As an addendum to the "We Can't Wait: True Grit" post, I thought I'd share a few notes from my favorite special event at the 2010 Nashville Film Festival "Carter Burwell: One on One". Throughout the event last night, acclaimed film composer Carter Burwell spoke frequently about his work with the Coen Bros. He counts Miller's Crossing (1990) as his favorite working experience ever because he was given three months rather than the common three to six week time frame. When asked for a favorite score from his own career he offered up only "I like Fargo but I don't really have favorites."

The audience at the well attended event seemed especially intrigued by any hints as to what the soundscape for the upcoming True Grit (2010) might sound like.

"We don't always see eye to eye." Burwell noted when discussing his 14th collaboration with Joel and Ethan Coen. But when it came to the conception of the True Grit score "We both had the same idea at the same time: Protestant hymns." The composer went on to explain that the lead character, Mattie Ross (to be played by Hailee Steinfeld) was so convinced of her own righteousness that they all thought Protestant hymns would be a fine way to play with her misplaced rectitude.

He is just beginning preliminary work ("research mode") while True Grit films in Santa Fe and warns that sometimes the early concept isn't what they end up going with at all. You might not hear any Protestant hymns in other words. But it's their early shared concept. "I like having a concept". He's currently looking for appropriate hymn recordings but griped that "they all sound too sweet." He has an idea for a sort of call and response feel to the theme, a solo instrument echoing back since Mattie is marching off alone, determined into dangerous territory to find her father's killer and recruiting others to join her.

Did he feel any pressure to conform to the sounds of classic Western film scores? No pressure at all. When asked about the 1969 film he reconfirmed that this is not a remake. "We're trying to go back to the book as much as possible and ignore that film."

In case you missed any of the "We Can't Wait: Summer and Beyond" series, here they are: The "orphan" picks Nathaniel (Burlesque), JA (Love and Other Drugs), Jose (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger), Craig (What's Wrong With Virginia?), Robert (True Grit) and Dave (Brighton Rock); Team Film Experience Countdown #12 It's Kind of a Funny Story, #11 Sex & the City 2, #10 Scott Pilgrim vs the World, #9 Somewhere, #8 The Kids Are All Right, #7 The Illusionist, #6 Toy Story 3, #5 Inception, #4 Rabbit Hole, #3 Never Let Me Go, #2 Black Swan and #1 The Tree of Life.


Danielle said...

My top 12 "can't wait" would be...

The Conspirator
London Boulevard
Love and Other Drugs
Never Let Me Go
Rabbit Hole
The Rum Diary
Toy Story 3
Tree of Life
The Way Back

Should be a great start to the decade!

Danielle said...

Ha, oops... I'm used to 10s.

The other two would be Iron Man and Somewhere.

Patty said...

Love that they're redoing the film entirely instead of just hashing out a remake

Danielle said...

"When asked about the 1969 film he reconfirmed that this is not a remake. 'We're trying to go back to the book as much as possible and ignore that film.'"

I'm glad for this.

Danny King said...

Burwell's subtle, yet awesome score from "Blood Simple" still pops into my head all of the time.


Danielle -- until you posted that I had forgotten that this was not just a new film year but a new decade year.