Danny Elfman on "The Corpse Bride" [Interview]

Interviewed by Ethan Aames
[posted:] 2005.09.19
Source: http://www.cinecon.com/news.php?id=0509192
Danny Elfman has created some of the most memorable scores that we, as movie fans, all recognize. From The Simpsons theme, to Spider-Man, to Dick Tracy, he’s become one of Hollywood’s most important men when it comes to adding a beautiful touch to a blockbuster picture.
But it is perhaps his collaboration with director Tim Burton that has made him famous for his often dark but playful themes, including Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetle Juice [Beetlejuice], and Batman.
Elfman adds his magic to Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, now playing in five theaters across the country but opening wide this Friday. Below, he talks about working with Tim on another one of his films.
Q: Henry Salick (director of Nightmare Before Christmas) once said that he thought The Nightmare Before Christmas had too many songs in the movie. Did this enter your mind when scoring this movie because it has less music in it?
DANNY: Tim, from the beginning, wanted to do less songs. There was a point where he wanted to do no songs and then it went from no songs to having a normal amount of songs. You have to realize that with Nightmare, when we started it, we had no script. It was just us. There was the studio and we had nothing to give them. So we started to tell the story through songs. We didn’t know how to start so that’s how we began. We were winging it because there was no manual telling us how to start The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Q: Tim tells us that the project came together really fast and so did you feel like you had to rush?
DANNY: It wasn’t quick but it was definitely a rush. He told me about Corpse Bride about five or six years ago and then I never heard about it again. But then he told me we were doing Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and I said, “Oh, great.” Then he says, “Oh yeah, by the way, we’re in pre-production on The Corpse Bride. Remember I told you about that?” “Oh great. When do they need songs?” “Now!” “Well when does Charlie need songs?” “Now!” So on the same day, it was like they both were in production and they needed songs.
Q: How was working on both films at the same time?
DANNY: It was very intense. I had to work on both simultaneously but fortunately, they were very different styles. I started with a few songs on Charlie but at least they had a script so at least they weren’t waiting, unlike on Nightmare.
Q: How did you come up with the inspiration for the music on-the-fly while production was going on?
DANNY: With anything, like this, you start with an idea and there’s pictures to look at. In this case, we had really great pictures. You could see what they looked like. You could see them moving. It was very clear what was being told. Once I knew what it was about, then it was really easy to move forward.
Q: How does the dynamic between you and Tim work? Does he leave it entirely up to you or is it collaborative?
DANNY: Basically, you try to get in sync first and then you go off and do your thing. But then, we work together on that thing. He gives me complete freedom but then once I’ve done something, we’re going to work tightly together to form it into its final version. It’s very hands-on.
Q: Out of all the great scores you’ve done, is there one that you’re most particularly proud of?
DANNY: I think I will always have a soft spot for Edward Scissorhands. It’s certainly one of my favorites but a lot of Tim’s films tend to be favorites: Beetle Juice [Beetlejuice], Edward, Pee Wee in its own way, and Batman in its own way. For quite a while, every one of his films was a landmark for me and I did four in between. Pee Wee was first, Beetle Juice [Beetlejuice] was fifth, Batman was 10th and Edward was 15th. Tim would give me a hard time, like “Why are you doing all these movies in between?” And I would say, “So I can get better to do your movies!” But something about Edward Scissorhands will always be [with me] just because it was real simple and it went down painlessly.
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