Asked whether he is Hollywood’s only editor-composer, John Ottman replies: “I have to be, because no one else is crazy enough to do this!”
He has a point. Ottman has served as both editor and composer on six of Bryan Singer’s films, including “The Usual Suspects,” “X2” and “Superman Returns.” Their latest collaboration is “Valkyrie,” starring Tom Cruise as a German colonel who masterminds a plot to kill Adolf Hitler.
“I edit at gunpoint only,” Ottman quips. “Why would I leave a field I love, writing music, to go to editing jail for a year? The silver lining is I know I’m going to have a hand in making a good film that I’m going to score.”
Ottman spent five months in Berlin during the shoot, then toiled for another entire year in post-production. “The editing process was so stretched out,” he says, “that I enabled myself to stretch out the composing process as well.”
He wound up writing 100 minutes of music, but used just 45 players — and, surprisingly for a war film, no trumpets. “The film needed a pulse,” he says. “The music became the heartbeat of the movie.
“The mantra was not to do a cliched World War II-movie kind of score, with a big sweeping ‘Winds of War’-style theme. It’s not really a melodic score, except for where it’s ultimately going; the film goes from thriller to tragedy. So in the context of the suspense cues, I put in a little nod, subtly, to the tragedy that’s coming.”