Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Alexandre Desplat Interview Part 2

Part 1 "How to Watch Movies... with Alexandre Desplat"

Part 2 Excerpts
Alexandre Desplat is the busiest composer in film but he made time to talk a few weeks back. My profile will be up at Tribeca Film in January but for now I thought I'd share a few unused excerpts from our conversation whilst Academy voters are presumably scribbling down his name on their ballots for Best Original Score. But will they vote for The King's Speech or The Ghost Writer? [We discussed both movies ~ coming in Part 3.]

We'll know which score the voters preferred on January 25th unless, who knows, maybe they'll both be nominated? A double dipping wouldn't be unprecedented in that category and considering Desplat's workload it's bound to happen eventually.

On Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
official soundtrack page

Nathaniel:  Is it difficult to take over something, a franchise, with ten years of pre-existing themes like Harry Potter? Did you have a lot less freedom?

Desplat: Well, John Williams, being one of the best composers of last 50 years, if not the last master of them all; I was more than happy to use some of his themes. The only theme that was meant to be reprised was "Hedwig's Theme" which has become kind of the Harry Potter main title. As I was starting work on the film I let my imagination go in many territories around this theme. When I was spotting the movie and started diving into the film it occurred to the director [David Yates], more even to me, that the theme did not have much left to do in this story because they're away from their school and the heroes are now grownups and this lovely world of fantasy is not their world anymore. So we used it two or three times early in the film almost to get rid of it, like they're getting rid of their childhood. It's part of their childhood to which they say goodbye. And the theme just vanishes for the same reasons.

On Process and Inspiration

Nathaniel: Is your process different for each film? How do you even begin the work?

Desplat: It differs for each film. The King's Speech I was shown the movie almost on its final cut. Some other films I get the script beforehand -- I got the The Ghost Writer script a year before. It's all very different which is good because you have to find different energies and different ways of getting inspiration. The main issue is how do you get excited, how do you get your cortex in movement? It could be from reading the script, it could be from seeing the images. Watching the images remains what I prefer because it has what the film has become. Reading the scripts it still belongs to literature so I am almost in favor of watching the first edit.

On Composing For International Cinema
I was struggling with a question about Jacques Audiard's The Beat That My Heart Skipped (one of my favorite Desplat scores) and he saved me by predicting the question and jumping in.

Desplat discussing Benjamin Button with David Fincher

Desplat: You know the only difference is the language because the directors have the same obsessions. Even though they have their own grammar it's always the same vocabulary: closeup, wide shot, tracking shot, overhead shot, aerial shot, whatever. How many actors and the way you put them in the frame? So it's just a matter of communication for me to be able to translate in music what the director wants. Again, If the director has a strong point of view I enjoy the process that brings the music into his films. It's just a matter of spending time together, exchanging ideas.

I would always choose to work on a project that the story or the director resonates with me. With Ang Lee, Jacques Audiard or David Fincher, I found the same notion of exchange. These filmmakers have actually a huge cinephilia behind them. They know the history of cinema as well as I do. So we are in the same territory in a way.

Nathaniel: You're speaking the same langauge.

Desplat: Exactly.

On Oscar Ballots
You know I had to ask him about this.

Nathaniel: In addition to enjoying Oscar nominations, you've been a member of AMPAS for the past few years. When it comes time to judge other composers and fill out your ballot, what are you looking for?

Desplat: I want to see what the composer brings to the film that was not there -- what else is the score bringing? Is it just following the action or opening a dimension of emotion that only this score could create? That's what i'm looking for, to be moved and surprised.

And also I'm interested in the instrumentation, if the composer takes chances, puts himself in danger. Comfort has never been good to artists. I don't mean every day comfort. It's good to eat and have hot water but I mean the artistic comfort zone where you repeat yourself... [he spoke at length about why this happens and that you must avoid it]

Desplat admires Maurice Jarre's experimentations in the 80s.

So when Maurice Jarre in the early 80s stops doing orchestra scores and dives into the electronic and makes, with Peter Weir, almost a revolution in film scoring, that's a great move. I'm always impressed by these kinds of actions.

But at first I look at the movie. I'm trying to be like a sponge just waiting for the emotion to overwhelm me. And if the score is good, it will.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2


Anonymous said...

Just finished watching The Ghost Writer and any nominations for Best Original Score will be well-deserved. Also, his work on Birth is one of my top 5 favorite scores of the past decade.

theo said...

i know this has nothing to do with desplat, but when is the website going back up?? i want to see your updated predictions!

Glenn said...

This man is a genius. He could only have scored Birth and he'd still be a genius.

BUT, man, do I hope he doesn't get nominated for The King's Speech. I wasn't even aware that movie had an "original score".

I love his affection for Maurice Jarre. He did some great electronic music for a while there. And, from what he said about Oscar ballots, it certainly sounds like he will be nominating The Social Network.

Ryan said...

awesome interview! Desplat is truly one of the greats. He should already have two Oscars (for BIRTH and THE PAINTED VEIL) and while it’s looking like he’ll be recognized for THE KING’S SPEECH, i’m hoping the wavering tensions and guttural flutes of THE GHOST WRITER bring him Oscar nom #4.

And while I’m rooting most for John Powell’s majestic HOW TO TRAIN YOU DRAGON score, i wouldn’t begrudge Desplat the trophy for either of his masterful scores this year.

vivi ferreira said...

Desplattttttttt my hero! Impossible don´t love him!

Your score for the ghost =writter are a masterpiece!