Getty Images Indefatigable N.E.R.D. front man, Neptunes producer and…
- Posted on Jul 19th 2010 12:00PM by Melinda Newman
"I couldn't figure out the sound that I was chasing and I realized it was Johnny [Marr]," Zimmer tells Spinner. "It was not even the sound from [Johnny's] records or anything like this," says the composer for such movies as 'The Lion King' and 'The Pirates of the Caribbean.' "There's a personality that comes across in a great player and a great artist has a stamp of humanity, a stamp of emotion that's singularly theirs. I realized I'm writing for this guy that I don't know."
In that way that seemingly only happens in Hollywood, Zimmer ran his idea of working with Marr by 'Inception' director Chris Nolan, who wholeheartedly approved. Zimmer then called Marr, whom he'd never met.
Marr, whose playing adds a delicious layer of tension to the score, was, somehow, not totally surprised by the call. "In a way, I understood it. It's sort of like the kind of thing I would do," Marr says. "You could say it's kind of ballsy, but not when you've got a little bit of vision. Hans is very plain-speaking and straightaway told me what he was thinking and I was like, 'Yeah, I get that.'"
And if Marr had said no? "I would have ditched the piece," Zimmer says.
Just as Zimmer wrote specifically for Marr, much of the rest of the ambitious score was influenced by surprising details from the production. "The architecture, the costumes and the lighting absolutely dictated the way the music was going to go," says Zimmer.
That's in part because unlike many composers who are brought in towards the end of the picture, Nolan welcomed Zimmer's participation from the start. He spent a great deal of time on the set and the two talked often. "A lot of our meetings would take place by just phoning up and saying 'Hey, want to take the kids to the beach?' And we'd sit on the beach [while] the kids are playing. We'd talk about the movie, but we may be talking about books we enjoyed or paintings we enjoyed," Zimmer says.
As rare as it was for Zimmer to be involved from the beginning, even more unorthodox was Nolan's mandate to the composer that he write based on their conversations and his feelings instead of scoring to fit the picture. "Chris has never once told me what to do. All he does is he creates an environment, an opportunity, to do exactly what I always wanted to do," says Zimmer of their previous collaborations on 'Batman Begins' (with James Newton Howard) and 'The Dark Knight.'
In fact, Nolan wouldn't let Zimmer see 'Inception.' "He wanted me to write the music independently of how they were cutting the movie," Zimmer says. "It was a collaborative process on a completely different level. It was totally instinctive and [with] the great freedom of just being able to write long pieces without getting caught up in the mechanics of 'Oh, you have to hit this cut or you have to hit this piece of action.'"
As jam-packed an action film as 'Inception' is (as well as a thriller and science fiction flick), Zimmer decided to focus on the sense of longing that permeates the film as his thematic constant. "From the word go, I said, 'OK, I need to write about the love story,'" he says. "I'm going to be the emotional river that runs through this movie and just try to find a way of doing it that wasn't old fashioned."
That's where Marr came in. The two, who hope to work together again, got to debut 20 minutes of the score with a 20-piece orchestra at the July 13 premiere before a live audience and over the Internet.
Zimmer was happy about the evening, despite "really bad stage fright." "I started to enjoy myself when Johnny started playing guitar and I'm looking over there and going, 'Yeah, he knows what he's doing. I'm safe now,'" Zimmer reveals.
The composer is even contemplating performing his music with symphonies on tour, similar to John Williams. "I keep thinking about it. I've been working a little with Mark Brickman, who's a lighting designer for Roger Waters. There's a different way of doing it."
It's an idea that Marr enthusiastically endorses: "I have a sneaking suspicion. Hans started out as a live musician," he says.
Marr, who also played with Modest Mouse and is currently a member of the Cribs, is open to working on more films now that he's gotten the movie bug. "It's been such a fabulous experience," he says. "It opened another aspect of the musical life ... One of the things [Hans and I] have in common is this excitement about ideas and when you get an idea that sets off some energy in you, it's damn well alright to spend 15 to 16 hours doing it and then you do it again the next day. You're got people around you who understand you. Your personal life is second to that. It's just pursuit of exciting ideas and then the joy, the work, is trying to execute it, but that's not a bad job."
The only bad experience from the movie? Given the focus on shared dreams in 'Inception,' many working on the film became fascinated with their nocturnal visions, even though they faded in the morning light. "Oh man, I dreamt a couple of pieces of music that were so extraordinary and fantastic," Zimmer says. "And as soon as I woke up, I couldn't remember a note."