One of my favorite stories of the past year concerns Michael Giacchino — the composer of Ratatouille, Up and the Star Trek films — who, exhausted from scoring four major films in 2016, was all set to go on vacation when the phone rang, asking him if he might squeeze in a Star Wars film before the end of the year. How he got to do Rogue One, and how he went about it, is the subject of a story I wrote for this week’s Music section of Variety. Along the way I also mention two of my other favorites of his this year: Marvel’s Doctor Strange and Disney’s Zootopia.
I have interviewed composer Michael Giacchino for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and, most often, for Variety. Yesterday was a rare instance of me doing so in a public forum. Giacchino (whose 2016 films already included Star Trek Beyond, Zootopia and Doctor Strange) joined me onstage at the Linwood Dunn theater in Hollywood for a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. As always, he was candid and funny, talking about the rushed schedule, finding the right John Williams-style sound for the film, and his plans for next year (which include Spider Man: Homecoming and War for the Planet of the Apes).
Oscar- and Emmy-winning composer Michael Giacchino conducted selections from his music for the TV series Lost over two nights last week at the Ford Theatre in Los Angeles. “Tonight is for you guys,” he told the crowd of Lost fans — who had flown from all over the world to attend (Friday night’s concert sold out so quickly that the producers added a second concert, Thursday night). Series producer Carlton Cuse co-hosted the event, which also featured a fun Q&A with composer and producer before the three-hour concert (whose musicians, Giacchino noted, consisted mostly of the same performers who played on the 121 episodes of the ABC series). The crowd was wildly enthusiastic and gave Giacchino and the musicians standing ovations both nights. Here is a review of Thursday’s concert.
My editor at Variety came up with an interesting angle, and one especially relevant in today’s world of sequels, spinoffs and reboots: what’s the role of music, and how do composers decide when and where to apply themes from previous films or TV shows? For this final story in our pre-nominations Oscar-music series, I received fascinating answers from John Williams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Thomas Newman (Spectre), Michael Giacchino (Jurassic World), Christophe Beck (The Peanuts Movie), Ludwig Goransson (Creed) and Joe Kraemer (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation).
For Variety‘s second installment in our series on potential Oscar nominees in the music categories, I interviewed five composers, seven songwriters, a music supervisor and a director. Our main story features John Williams, in his first interview offering details of his new Star Wars score, as well as Hateful Eight music supervisor Mary Ramos talking about Ennio Morricone’s music; and The 33 director Patricia Riggen discussing the late James Horner’s contributions to her film. I also wrote four of the six composer profiles (on Thomas Newman, Michael Giacchino, Carter Burwell and Brian Tyler) and half of the song story (including interviews with Spectre singer-songwriter Sam Smith and The Hunting Ground songwriters Diane Warren and Lady Gaga). And there’s still more to come!
I have hosted American Youth Symphony film-music concerts for seven years now, but rarely has one been so much fun as Sunday’s live-to-picture performance of Michael Giacchino’s score for Star Trek: Into Darkness, conducted by (the, let’s face it, phenomenal) David Newman. The Oscar-winning composer came out at the beginning, for an interview about the challenges of scoring the Trek films (and confirming that he’ll score the next one, Beyond); and again at the end, to conduct the premier performance of his suite from this year’s delightful Pixar film Inside Out. The sellout crowd at UCLA’s Royce Hall loved it.
The fastest-growing trend for major orchestras — both here and in Europe — is the advent of the “live to picture” concert, in which full movies are shown with live musical accompaniment. I explore this arena in a story for this week’s Variety, along with a sidebar on an upcoming Los Angeles concert of live-to-film Disney cartoons — and a fun story about composer Michael Giacchino‘s three big summer pictures: Inside Out, Tomorrowland and Jurassic World.
Every year we try and assess who has the best shot at a nomination for the original-score Oscar. Eight of the 12 profiles in this year’s Variety Oscar-music section are mine: Marco Beltrami, Danny Elfman, Michael Giacchino, Jonny Greenwood, Henry Jackman, Clint Mansell, Thomas Newman and Steven Price. (Colleague Tim Greiving penned the other four: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, Gary Yershon, Mark Mothersbaugh.) Tim and I also collaborated on this year’s overview of Best Song possibilities.
Attending Michael Giacchino’s recording sessions for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was probably the most fun I’ve had in months. Giacchino is not just a fine composer, he also maximizes the “joy” factor in everything he does, including the scoring sessions (which can often, in today’s studio environment, be pressure-filled and stressful). I wrote about them, including interviews with the composer, director Matt Reeves, and veteran percussionist Emil Richards, here. Michael’s sister Maria supplied the fabulous photos.
I’ve written a number of pieces about Giacchino over the years but this was one of my favorites. Another in Variety‘s series of “Billion Dollar Composer” sections, it offered a chance to place his career in a bigger context; the main story recounts his own background and sprinkles in quotes from directors J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird (and adds 10 favorite career moments as chosen by the composer). There are sidebars about scoring video games and theme-park rides, and a really fun piece in which frequent collaborators Abrams, Matt Reeves and Damon Lindelof talk about his contributions to their films and TV shows. Incidentally, here is a 2009 Variety story focused specifically on his music for Lost and my 2011 visit to the scoring stage for Giacchino’s Super 8 (when Steven Spielberg happened to show up).