Hellboy 2 - The Science of the Supernatural

By Rudy Koppl
Music from the movies, ca.2008.08
Source: http://www.musicfromthemovies.com/sotw.asp?ID=133
[big snip]
[Rudy Koppl] I know Universal wanted to hire a British composer, how did the choice of Danny Elfman come about?
[Guillermo Del Toro] This wasn’t an easy film to score. Marco Beltrami is fantastic, but I was always very curious about working with Danny Elfman and I thought this was the perfect opportunity. The original idea was to hire a British composer and then for whatever reason Danny’s name came forth. Danny had worked many times in England in the past and everything started to develop that way. He’s American, but everything seemed to fall into place with him. I never thought that we could be able to afford him and he would be very difficult to get because he’s always very busy. Kathy Nelson (President of Film Music for Universal Music Group and Universal Pictures) said, “I think we can get him, I know him very well.” At that point I felt we could only benefit if we tried.
By working with Elfman, did you learn anything through his experience as a composer?
In any field of filmmaking it’s one of the most rewarding collaborations I’ve ever had in my life; it was extremely rich, extremely generous of him because every time we would talk about things I felt there was a true kinship of spirit. With Marco I have the greatest admiration and I’m a collector of his music, his score for the first movie is brilliant, but his personality would have been perhaps the wrong marriage for this one. I feel very close to him, but I felt a kinship of a different kind. We came through the ranks together, we both went through the Miramax grinder, so I feel like he’s more of a colleague, but with Danny it was different, it was working with somebody that is in some ways more seasoned of a composer.
In the filmmaking process when did you first start thinking about the music you wanted for HB2?
When I was writing I was already talking about Ray Harryhausen, I was already talking about doing a Bernard Herrmann adventure score like The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts. That’s what I presented Danny with from the start. I said to him, ‘I want this scored like an old fashioned adventure.’ He loved it! He really did something remarkable because he did not just ape or copy the Herrmann style, which is in and of itself not easy to do, but he procreated that style and somewhat fused it with his own. There’s some pulse and rhythm in Danny’s music that is very Herrmannesque, but he made it even more so on this film. For the temp we used Jason and the Argonauts, but mostly I tried to temp it with Danny’s music. I used a little bit of Planet of the Apes, a little bit of Edward Scissorhands, and some more scores as well.
What was the key to making the score work for Hellboy 2?
There is a big variation in that. Danny composes in a very operatic way. He creates a theme for each character, but we decided early on not to use Marco’s ‘Hellboy Theme’ because I didn’t want it to sound close to Danny’s music, I didn’t want to pillage from Marco. I felt it was an unfair situation for both composers. It’s a very jarring effect to have one personality of a composer sort of shoehorned into another score. I agreed with Danny to make the theme of the movie ‘The Golden Army Theme’ or ‘The Theme of the Adventure.’ Let’s not make it the theme of Hellboy, but the theme of the adventure. He did a very minimalistic cue for Hellboy, but it’s not one of the more reprehensive themes of the movie. Danny proceeded to create themes, sounds, personality, all the personality for the prince, the princess, and the elf kingdom, and then he just proceeded to fuse it all together.
Due to a complex cast of characters, wasn’t it impossible to create themes for them or was this something you wanted, so they could interplay with each other throughout the film?
Danny did compose a character theme for the prince, a character theme for the princess, a love theme for Abe and the princess, he did take a thematic approach, but what I think is different is that he found the most memorable theme in the movie, ‘The Theme of the Adventure’ or ‘The Golden Army Theme.’ In a way you get this kind of feeling from some of Herrmann’s scores in his adventure films. The score for each of the Sinbad movies contains very important variations, the score for one of the Sinbad movies can be lusher than another or another one can be a little more fantastic. I wanted Hellboy 2 to have a new personality with ‘The Golden Army Theme.’
What was interesting about this score is that one moment Danny is playing romantic music for Hellboy and Liz, then immediately the movies changes direction and the music has to be completely different.
Danny has a range that is a delight to explore. The movie endeavors itself to allow him to play with that range. He can do something very whimsical and almost cartoon like with the tooth fairies, then he can compose on an epic scale when awakening the stone giant, and then he can do something really romantic, sweet, and moving, for example during the death of the prince.
Elfman’s use of a child singing is very interesting.
That came from Danny when we were talking about the tooth fairies being playful, he came up with idea of having a child singing and this little xylophone sound, so the tooth fairies would be childlike and creepy at the same time.
You brought in this new character, ectoplasmic physical medium Johann Krauss, did this change anything musically?
He’s essentially made of ectoplasm. There’s only a brief theme for him in his introduction. We wanted to make it very Teutonic, very Bavarian. He did this little march for when Johann is first introduced that I thought was very whimsical and funny.
This takes us back to Karl Ruprecht Kroenen, the mechanical German solider that reassembles himself in the original Hellboy.
Not necessarily in the second film. We did plant some seeds on the second one where we see Johann watching the mask of Kroenen, which is the Nazi from the first movie, but they would be recalled only if there was a third movie, which is probable, but not necessarily a sure thing.
You’ve taken it this far, I would hope there would be a third one someday.
I would love to because Hellboy is close to my heart. The reason why the movie can be successful at any level is because the elements that are engineered are all of very high quality. The actors are fantastic, the creature design is fantastic, the music is fantastic, and the cinematography is fantastic, so I’m truly blessed with a great team and a great cast.
What were the key musical sequences in your film, parts where the music was essential to fulfill your vision?
The Troll Market because the music really gives us the spirit of the place and The Golden Army chamber and The Golden Army fight because the music was crucial to it. It visually was narrative; it was narrating the character of the robots. The threat of The Golden Army works within a fantasy based film. The beauty of the music is it reveals the character of the robots as much as the animation and the sound effects because we married them to percussion and brass. They have a decidedly Herrmannesque rhythm, a very punchy theme, which is my favorite theme in the movie.
What did you love about working with Danny?
It was very exciting working on such a scale and at Abbey Road. There was something mythical about it because of everything that’s associated with Abbey Road has a certain mystique. I’ve never scored there and I felt really privileged to be there. I hate to sound political, but I really loved working with Danny on every part of the scoring process. It was one of best experiences I’ve ever had in my life. When you find people like Marco or Danny or Javier Navarrete, you realize that you’ve been blessed. I’ve had a good relationship with almost all of my musicians and never had a bad experience.
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