But it was not until the French composer, who earned his
sixth Oscar nomination last month for the film "Philomena,"
began discovering the music in the films of Alfred Hitchcock,
Francois Truffaut and Francis Ford Coppola did he consider film
scoring a real job to which he could aspire.
Now Desplat, 52, is one of the most in-demand composers in the
film industry, scoring movies as diverse as mega-blockbusters in
the "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" series to dramas like "The
King's Speech" and Wes Anderson's comedies.
The composer's work will also be featured in Anderson's oddball
murder-mystery "The Grand Budapest Hotel" that will premiere at
the Berlin International Film Festival on Thursday and George
Clooney's World War Two drama "The Monuments Men," which gets
its North American release on Friday.
Desplat, who typically splits his time between Los Angeles and
Paris, spoke to Reuters about composing a score for a film that
can stand on its own, how Judi Dench helped guide one of his
compositions and getting inside of Anderson's head.
Q: What's the first thing you do when you sit down to compose?
A: I don't sit down. Sometimes I just walk, like I'm doing now.
Sometimes I'm on a plane or on a train or on my Vespa in Paris.
I always tend to think that composing is not playing an
instrument, composing is having something in your head that's
steaming and it has to go out. It has to become sounds and be
written. It's an emotion that you can't repress.
Q: Do you start working with the script or the early cuts of the
film you are given?
A: The script is a good guide because it gives you the subject.
You can say it resonates with you or it has a story that you've
never scored before but it's still paper and ink. It's not yet
images. ... I have to wait until the movie has some sort of
shape. That's when my imagination starts to be struck by moving
images because only the image can show you what the music can
add to what is already on screen.
Q: What was your focus scoring "Philomena," a story about an
Irish woman searching for the son she was forced to give up for
adoption 50 years earlier?
A: If I had just composed the script I might have written a very
tragic, dark, extremely sad music. But when I saw the cut and
the intensity that Judi Dench brings to the character, and the
way she has this restrained pain, sense of loss and forgiveness,
the music has to shine as much as she shines. Otherwise, the
music would drag her down. So this absolutely enlightened
performance, when you look at all the close-ups of Judi Dench,
the music has to emphasize that and respect that in a way that
the script would not have given me.
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Q: How do you approach writing music for films as
idiosyncratic as Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" and "The Grand
A: Wes' movies are of another world. They come from Wes' world,
which is a very specific and special work of his own. ... Musically
we enter in another dimension, a fifth dimension. So I use my
imagination in the same way that he does and try and create first an
instrumentarium — a bunch of instruments that would be toys that we
play together — and then we decide together if it's a dark melody, a
happy melody, no melody ... but again it's very much the picture we
work with because Wes' directing is very precise, very detailed. And
the music has to be as precise as the picture.
Q: How has film composing changed in the past
A: It seems sometimes that after more than 600 years of
sophisticated, extremely scientific and incredible music, there's a
kind of a laziness in what I hear in many movies now. Don't get me
wrong. It doesn't have to be a big score. It can be very minimal.
... But it's just a matter of sophistication and craft. I would say
for the last 10 years it's lost that a bit. There's always a wave
like this. When synthesizers appeared everyone was a composer
suddenly ... It kind of went away but now it's coming back because
of (computer programs) Garage Band and Logic. And so now anyone can
be a composer because you can buy a keyboard and a computer and just
put things together. But putting things together doesn't give you a
mind and a storyline and something that's interesting.
Q: Do you believe film scores can stand on their own as art without
the movie as an accompaniment?
A: Of course! That's what I've dreamed of since I wanted to do that
job. I wanted to be a film composer because I heard scores that
could stand alone, from "Vertigo" to "Star Wars" to "La Dolce Vita,"
because this music has so much history. They're weighed with the
history of music. They come from somewhere, they have a past.
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Lisa
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