Composer Alexandre Desplat Talks "Rise of the Guardians", "Argo", and "Zero Dark Thirty"
Tue, 11 Dec 2012 07:40:55
As a composer, Alexandre Desplat's work has defined 2012.
He's the man behind the music for Rise of the Guardians and Oscar contenders Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, and his ability to eclipse a myriad of emotions with his music is truly mind-blowing. He goes from conjuring otherworldly themes for the fantasy characters of Rise of the Guardians to drumming up raw and unbridled tension in Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. Desplat stands out as one of the most versatile and vibrant composers of this generation.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Alexandre Desplat talks scoring Rise of the Guardians, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, and more.
How did you approach the score for Rise of the Guardians?
This type of film doesn't come along often to a composer where there's almost a nonstop hour and a half of music going from any type of emotion with so many opportunities of playing with a full orchestra and having fun and adventure. It was a dream to do. I hadn't had an opportunity like this before. It starts with the pleasure and desire.
Do the characters or plot have a bigger impact on your musical choices?
I think it's a real blend of both. You decide on which type of theme or mood should be conveyed based on the characters. As you move along, you realize you can't always play the theme like a little jingle every time the character comes into the frame. In a subtle but sure way, we also decided that theme of a character could be the situation. Or, the situation could become the theme of a character. It's very interwoven. There are themes for characters except for North because North has such a larger-than-life energy. Trying to have a theme for him doesn't work. It'd be just mimicking what he was doing.
Who's your favorite character?
From the beginning, it was The Sandman. First of all, he's silent. He's not bombarding you with dialogue [Laughs]. When I was a child, there was this program I'd watch with my sisters before I'd go to bed. The hero was The Sandman. Of course, I'd go to sleep and think of The Sandman and his beautiful spreading of sand above the roofs of Paris. I'd dream of that, and I'd fall asleep thinking about him. When I saw he'd become a character in a major movie, I was so pleased. Slowly but surely, his theme became the main theme of the movie. Very early in the film, you can see the audience enjoys The Sandman, and they like him.
As far as Argo and Zero Dark Thirty go, what are some of the best ways to conjure tension musically?
There are many things you have to be aware of. Argo starts with a kind of cinéma vérité style, and you have to respect that. When you really start hearing music, you've already been familiarized with the real sounds of the place and the invasion of the embassy. It really brings you back in time and into a place you feel uneasy. The score grows from there, and it starts to grip you as an undercurrent. It accelerates and plateaus. Then, there's another plateau and another until it finally climaxes.
Where there any similarities between the film?
These movies are very near geographically. However, they're so different. Kathryn Bigelow's movie is about facts. She's showing you facts. She's not trying to entertain you. What I love about the film is it shows two kinds of killers. These people are fighting each other. It's a war. Is it nice to see a C.I.A. agent torturing a terrorist for a few minutes in the film? No, it's not. It's very unsettling and difficult to watch. Is it nice to watch terrorists bombing and killing people in London? No, it's not. It's also very unsettling and horrible to watch. That's what the movie's about. It's trying to get us to understand that this is a war with fierce people who are trying to win. Jessica Chastain looks fragile, but she's the one with the most tireless passion to get to the end of the story. It's fantastic.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Interesting, I was just listening to The Doors. I move from one thing to another. I was listening to some of my colleagues scores like Danny Elfman. I swing around from different things.
Have you heard his work?