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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Interview on the music from The Informant!

By E. Corrado

With the Golden Globes tomorrow, here is an interview with one of the five nominees in the Best Original Score category, Marvin Hamlisch. The interview includes a question about the song in the film, ‘Trust Me’, as well, a question which was answered by both Marvin Hamlisch, as well as the writers, Alan and Marilyn Bergman - this particular answer will be marked as from them. Before that, all questions are answered by Marvin Hamlisch. Enjoy reading!

When did you find out that you would be doing the score for The Informant? I got very busy lately as a concert director for many orchestras, and I’ve been very lucky to work with some great film directors in my lifetime including George Roy Hill, Sidney Pollock, Allan Pakula, and people like that. I got a call from Soderbergh and it was such a great feeling to work with him, and it really started my juices flowing.

What was it like working on this project? It was wonderful! First of all, there hasn’t been a film like The Informant! in a long time. It’s a very black and white film. Most of these films today don’t call a unique range of a score like this. What iced it for me was the desire to have this range. Every note in this score is written out hodgepodge, but every note has a purpose. That was the idea behind the score, and I’m very happy that Steven Soderburgh, who really knows how to use music, was happy with it.

For The Informant!, you received your 8th Golden Globe nomination. What was that like? I am thrilled for this nomination. It truly means a great deal to me.

The Informant! was based on a book of actual events. Have you read it, and did the fact that the story was true affect how you approached the score for the film? No, I did not read the book. But I’ll tell you what I’m very happy about was that I met Mr. Whitacre and his wife at the screening, he told me that what I wrote was very appropriate because that’s how he felt at the time. He’s doing pretty well, he’s the head of a major company, so it’s worked out pretty well for him.

I love the jazz sounds in the score for The Informant! What were some of the instruments that you chose specifically for this score? The film has zany, off-the-wall scoring —you have piccolos, kazoos, you have a bass saxophone, you’ve got a ho-down while he’s taking a polygraph test. So, all of this stuff is really zany—but it’s all part and parcel of the brain of Mark Whitacre. The truth of the matter is, we’ve given the other part of this bipolar person a voice.

How do you think this musical style adds to the finished film? The score of The Informant! is not so much about notes as it is about choices. Because the character is bipolar, I came to believe that the music would have to represent that part of him, that the world didn’t see, but that he inside of himself did. So therefore, as far as the score is concerned, without this theory of being a man in total control, he would respond to the FBI as though they were kind of silly. Therefore, they get kazoos and he gets this happy-go-lucky theme.

Do you play any instruments? No.

How did you start composing music? Well, I was a recording assistant for Funny Girl, so of course Julie Stein meant a lot to me. He’s a great, great man and a wonderful composer. Of course, the first time any composer ever hears Westside Story, that will influence you. But, I think that Julie Stein is one of the big influences on me because I love his music and I love Gypsy and there were a certain amount of shows, particularly earlier in my life, that I just adored, and would just listen to like crazy. On the other hand, one of the films that I always remember seeing—were three films—scoring wise, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, On the Waterfront, and High Noon.

Are there any upcoming projects you can tell me about? Film scores will definitely be in the future, but it has to do with being hired by directors.

Now, I have a question about the song in the film for both you, as well as the writers Alan and Marilyn Bergman...

For you first, what was the writing process like for the song, ‘Trust Me’? Steven Soderbergh wanted to make sure that the music in the film let the audience know the film was funny, and that’s what I wanted in the song ‘Trust Me’. The song was written in a minute and a half for me. Marilyn called me up with the title ‘Trust Me’ I think I wrote the song in literally three minutes, and then called them back up.

And now for Alan and Marilyn Bergman, what was the writing process for ‘Trust Me’ like for you? Well, when we write songs, we discuss them a lot—and in most cases we prefer to have the melodies first. In other cases we write 4 or 5 or 8 bars and I think in the case of ‘Trust Me’ for The Informant!, we wrote a couple of bars; Marvin took it from there. The melody was first, then the lyrics. It was a collaboration.

Thank you all for your time in answering my questions, and good luck this awards season!

The Golden Globes are on tomorrow night in a live telecast on NBC at 5:00pm PST and 8:00pm EST. Watch for my predictions for all categories early tomorrow, as well as live updated coverage of the event tomorrow night.