This interview originally appeared in Inside Film on an unlisted date. Interview by Simon Goodman. Copyright of A & R Publishing, Limited.
Where did you train?
I had two weeks of piano lessons. I was Stanley Myers' assistant--he wrote the music for The Deer Hunter. I was also in the Buggles. Remember Video Killed the Radio Star? We ruined a whole generation! I was doing commercials in London for Air-Edel. THey had a load of film composers and that's how I met him.
What was your first gig and how did you get it?
My Beautiful Laundrette. They let anybody do movies back then. Stanley and I did it together. After that I did A World Apart. That was my big break. Barry Levinson's wife liked the music and went out to buy the CD, and Barry hired me for Rain ManBlack Rain and Thelma and Louise for director Ridley Scott.
What is the strangest film that you've had to score?
True Romance was the strangest. We had money for nine musicians and so to spite the budget I hired the most useless, incongruous bunch of guys I could find. The diversity gave us a great result!
And the hardest?
Thin Red Line was the hardest. Terrence Malick wanted me to write the music first. Usually you compose to a rough cut. I threw all my previous knowledge out the window and started again. I needed to provide a structure for him to build the film on. Th one thing Terry gave me was the ability to be a better composer. I wrote for nine months without a day off. It was incredible pressure in the cutting room.
Where's the best place to learn the craft these days?
I thought the film music course at UCLA wasn't great so I put together a one-day seminar and taught there. The best training, though, is to just do it, not study it. You learn through failure. Commericals are a good place to start. It's about learning the aesthetics. You could also try becoming someone's apprentice. In LA, I have a whole studio of young composers learning off me all the time, in the same way that I learn from stanley all those years back.
What about someone who want to get into the business?
Ask yourself these questions. How sure am I of my talent? How stubborn and resilient am I? You need to stick to your guns when the going is tough. Also see yourself as a film maker, not a composer, because you are writing, but in a different language.Back to The Thin Red Line Interviews Page