The maestro behind Batman and Bart

by Jane Marion
T.V. Guide, 1990.07.14
"I try to lick into the characters when I'm doing a score," says musical wizard Danny Elfman, whose works include Batman (which debuted on HBO on July 8), Dick Tracy, and the upcoming Edward Scissorhands. "I live the movie. I dream the scenes. I'm impossible to be around."
Elfman is one of the most potent pop musicians of the past few years. His scores have helped characterize, among others, Batman, Bart Simpson, and Pee-Wee Herman. "In any movie," says the 37-year-old composer, "there's a character that I'm particularly fond of. In Batman it would be the Joker. The Joker was the toughest character musically, not because he had a different musical identity—I had given him a kind of perverted waltz—but because he didn't have any scenes where he wasn't talking. I had to play the Joker more low-key, almost like he was hearing this strange waltz in his head."
As for the theme of the Caped Crusader, says Elfman, "I had two versions--one in a minor key and one major. One sounded a little more sad and the other more heroic, but it was the same theme."
Although he's one of Hollywood's most in-demand composers, Elfman had doubts that he would be able to capture the dark intensity of the $40-million-plus film. His 70-minute score was such a success that since Batman, Elfman has gone on to score three other action-adventure movies. Darkman, he says, will be his last in that genre because he wants to keep expanding his musical horizons. "I wouldn't have done Dick Tracy if I felt that the score they wanted me to do was Batman. I did it because there was a romantic style of music I'd never done before."
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