In the last 10 years, Hans Zimmer has written music for some 40 film and television projects, including Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy, the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise and the recent smash-hit History Channel miniseries "The Bible."
"I haven't had a day off for I don't know how long, but that's all right," Zimmer, whose IMDb page lists 158 composer credits, including Nolan's upcoming film "Interstellar," told HuffPost Entertainment. "These are good problems."
Zimmer's "good problems" carry on throughout 2013: an Oscar-winner for the 1994 film "The Lion King," Zimmer wrote the music for no less than four highly anticipated movies this year, including "The Lone Ranger," "Rush," "Twelve Years a Slave" and this week's "Man of Steel." With Zack Snyder's Superman reboot out on June 14 -- and the soundtrack available now -- Zimmer spoke to HuffPost Entertainment about working on "Man of Steel," how he handled the specter of John Williams' iconic "Superman" theme and why he's still surprised by the influence of his "Inception" score.
Christopher Nolan is executive producer on "Man of Steel" and you've worked with him quite a lot in the past. Is he the one who got you involved in the film?
It actually came about the wrong way around. We had some sort of "Inception" party and a journalist asked me if I was going to be working on Superman, and I said, "Absolutely, no way." Because I had never met Zack. The reporter misunderstood me though, and suddenly it was all over the internet that I was doing Superman. So I phoned Zack and said, "I just want to apologize for this. I actually said no [I'm not doing Superman]." I assumed in his autonomous mind, he would go and pick his own composer. I thought John Williams or something. He said, "It's funny you should phone because I'm listening to some tracks of yours and maybe we should meet."
Did you have any trepidation about meeting to discuss "Man of Steel"?
Well, by then I was going, it's just too much responsibility. Superman is iconic. John Williams is the master. Is there a better composer around? Probably not. So, I didn't want to fail at this thing. At the same time, Chris was going, "Come on, Hans. It's Superman! You want to do it." I said to him, "The big difference is that when you turned up at Warner Bros. and said, 'I want to do Superman,' you had an idea in your head. I have emptiness between my ears right now. I have nothing!" I was at a disadvantage. But Zack started talking about things that I could understand. I started to get the tone in my head, which was so radically different from what John had done. I could understand talking about being a foreigner, being a stranger in a strange land. I could understand that after being endlessly dark for nine years with the Batman films, it might be interesting to go and have a ray of hope and celebrate the heartland of America. Write something about those people. Write something positive for a change and write something humble. I knew how to deal with the big, epic sweeping stuff; it was the small humble stuff where you can get caught or fouled up. The simple notes.
John Williams' original Superman score is one of his most iconic ever. Did you go back to it at all before diving into "Man of Steel"?
No. I shut myself off completely. I adore every piece of John's music and I listen to his music as a fan, but I completely starved myself during this process. There was no way I was going to listen to a single note. I only saw "Lincoln" two weeks ago, because I couldn't allow myself to go near any of it! So, now that I'm done, I'm going to have a serious John Williams party. I can listen to his music again and see what he's been up to.
The first thing I did was leave out the trumpet. If I take away some of the vocabulary that John used, I'm already going to be different. It's not about being different for the sake of being different, it's about what's appropriate for this movie. Look, I think this is a very different film from "Superman." I think this is a very different film from even what people even expect. One of the things I noticed was that when the third trailer came out -- the one that had my music in it -- people started to realize that it was a different type of movie. The comments got a bit more soulful and thoughtful in a way. People saw we weren't being cheap and cashing in on something, but that we were actually putting some heart into this thing.
Your score here reminds me of the work you did in the 1990s, in movies like "Backdraft," "Crimson Tide" and "The Rock." Was it fun to go back to that kind of style?
There is a thread that runs through a "Backdraft" or this, which is the simple idea of somebody who is a first responder. Somebody who doesn't turn their eyes away from helping other people. That's a fun thing to celebrate. In a funny way, that's pretty much where we ended up with "The Dark Knight Rises," where Alfred is forever telling Bruce, "Stop being a teenager. Stop trying to solve things by beating people up. The world needs your brain. The world needs your ingenuity. The world needs your money." Whatever that is, but the idea that you can't turn away from the world. Do something that helps humanity as opposed to darkness.
When you were writing the score for "Inception," did you think it was going to explode in the way that it has? It's hard to find a movie trailer that doesn't ape your music from that film in some way.
No! I don't think you ever do that. I remember sitting with Chris and the two of us talking about the story and him going, "You know, I wonder if people will get it or if they won't get it." I said, "It'll be great, but it'll be our sort of small, independent movie. It's a little strange. It certainly won't be a Batman." Ultimately, you do it for the passion. You do it because you love it, you love the story and you love the people that are making the movie. This is not a job. You just do it because you have one life, and in my case it's about playing music. The operative word is play. I can't even say I'm working that hard.