You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Portman took simple approach to ‘Never’

Rachel Portman - 'Never Let Me Go'

Never Let Me Go,” based on the Kazuo Ishiguro novel about cloned children raised specifically to provide donor organs as young adults, needed music that was as delicately balanced as the storytelling.

Says British composer Rachel Portman: “The film is ultimately very moving, extremely sad. I wanted to put some hope into it, some humanity in the music. It was important to me that there was a real emotional heartbeat in the midst of this story.”

Portman, the first woman to win a scoring Oscar (“Emma,” 1996), felt that a “huge sweeping score” would have been wrong for the film, which centers on the lives of three young people (Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield) who discover their fates as young teens. At most, she used 48 players.

“It’s sort of a chamber piece,” she says, noting that most of the score was written for piano, strings and harp, with solos for violin and cello. “If you use a solo instrument, it’s like having a voice,” she says. “It highlights the emotion.” But, she adds, “the violin is played with virtually no vibrato, because I didn’t ever want it to sound sentimental.”

Portman, who has two other previous Oscar noms (“The Cider House Rules,” “Chocolat”), spent four months on the film. At the behest of director Mark Romanek and the producers, she experimented with other approaches, including the use of child’s voice and a big finale cue. But in the end, they opted for a simpler, more subtle approach.

“I know, from looking at a scene, how much emotion to give a piece of music to play against it,” she says. “For my own taste, I stay on the side of restraint, because I think it works better in film.”

Get more from Eye on the Oscars: Music:
Music branch can’t please all the people | Song category hangs by thread | Daft Punk immersed in ‘Tron’ | Songs in contention
Michael Brook | Carter Burwell | Danny Elfman | Grizzly Bear | Jan Kaczmarek | Rachel Portman | Anton Sanko

More Film

  • Ayesha Curry and Stephen Curry attends

    Ayesha Curry Honored With Variety's Vivant Tastemaker Award at Napa Valley Film Festival

    The rooftop bar at the tony Archer Hotel in the heart of downtown Napa made a stunning backdrop for Variety’s Vivant party on Nov. 13. Vivant was launched at the Napa Valley Film Festival, which opened Nov. 13 with “Just Mercy.”  Variety executive VP of content Steven Gaydos introduced Variety Vivant Tastemaker honoree Ayesha Curry [...]

  • Dwayne Johnson

    Dwayne Johnson's 'Black Adam' Movie Sets Release Date

    Dwayne Johnson’s long-in-development “Black Adam” movie is slated to hit theaters just in time for the holidays. The New Line Cinema film film will debut on Dec. 22, 2021, five days after the release of James Cameron’s long-gestating “Avatar” sequel. Johnson has been attached to play the anti-hero for most of this decade. Jaume Collet-Serra, [...]

  • Sponge on the Run Trailer

    SpongeBob SquarePants Meets Keanu Reeves in 'Sponge on the Run' Trailer

    Millennials and Gen-Zers, say goodbye to the David Hasselhoff “SpongeBob” cameos of your childhood. According to the “Sponge on the Run” trailer, Keanu Reeves, or rather his floating head, will make an appearance in the upcoming film premiering May 22, 2020. The latest film in the SpongeBob franchise follows the yellow sponged hero and his [...]

  • CineAsia Conference Canceled Due to Hong

    CineAsia Conference Scrubbed Due to Hong Kong Protests

    Film Expo Group has scrubbed next month’s CineAsia conference hosted in Hong Kong, citing escalating violence in the city. “Due to the escalating violence and on-going anti-government protesting we felt it was in the best interest of all concerned to cancel the convention,” said Robert Sunshine, chairman of the Film Expo Group in a statement [...]

  • Margot Robbie Big Ticket Podcast

    Margot Robbie Was 'Pretty Rattled' After Reading the 'Bombshell' Script for the First Time

    Margot Robbie took to Twitter to prepare for her role as a conservative news producer and aspiring broadcast journalist for Fox News in “Bombshell.” “Understanding her upbringing and her point of view on politics in the world, that really took me a minute,” Robbie says on today’s episode of “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content