Silvestri scores ‘Christmas’ tradition

3D toon required composer to create classic

Composer Alan Silvestri faced a monumental challenge when director Robert Zemeckis asked for “a classic Christmas song” at the end of his 3D re-imagining of “A Christmas Carol.”

“He wanted it to be supremely spiritual but not religious,” Silvestri says — and it needed to be titled “God Bless Us Everyone,” using the famous phrase spoken by Tiny Tim. The director was hoping for “something that would live on, after the film, as part of the lexicon of Christmas music,” adds the composer, who has done every Zemeckis film for 25 years, including “Forrest Gump” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

Silvestri and co-writer Glen Ballard (who won a Grammy for their last holiday tune, “Believe,” from Zemeckis’ 2004 “Polar Express”) penned one song that seemed appropriate but that ultimately didn’t pass muster with the director, who wanted to hear “the glory” of Christmas in their music and lyrics.

So, as the scoring dates approached, they tried again — this time in the style of traditional carols like “Adeste Fideles” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Coincidentally, Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli was in the midst of making a Christmas album, and happened to be looking for a movie song to sing. Bocelli heard the song demo and agreed to perform it — but had only a day or two open in his schedule to add his voice to the film.

“We recorded the orchestra on the last day of scoring, a Thursday afternoon in L.A.,” Silvestri recalls. “We added the choir on Friday morning in London and I left for Italy that night.” Bocelli sang it (in English, Italian and Spanish) in his Tuscany studio and added it to his own album (which immediately shot to the top of the charts).

Silvestri still marvels at how it all came together so quickly and well. “It was like a Swiss watch, but not to any design,” he says. “This was magic.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Imax logo

    Imax China Hires Edwin Tan as CEO

    Former conferences and exhibitions executive Edwin Tan has been appointed CEO of Imax China. He replaces Jiande Chen, who now becomes vice chairman of the company, having headed the company since its inception in 2011. Tan was previously CEO of the China business of leading events firm Messe Muenchen. Before that he held roles at [...]

  • Alexander Skarsgard in the front rowGiorgio

    Film News Roundup: Alexander Skarsgard Joins 'Passing' With Tessa Thompson

    In today’s film news roundup, Taryn Manning, Shane West and Alexander Skarsgård have new roles, and Warner Bros. unveils a modernized logo. CASTINGS Alexander Skarsgård has signed on to join Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga and André Holland in “Passing.” The film marks Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut and is based on a screenplay that Hall adapted [...]

  • Spike Lee

    Spike Lee to Direct Hip-Hop Love Story 'Prince of Cats'

    Spike Lee will direct a big-screen version of the hip-hop love story “Prince of Cats,” based on Ron Wimberly’s graphic novel. Legendary has been developing the project with Janet and Kate Zucker of Zucker Productions. Lee, who won the Academy Award for adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman,” will also re-write the “Prince of Cats” script with [...]

  • DOLEMITE IS MY NAME!, 2019, DOL_Unit_06284.RAF

    'Dolemite Is My Name' Writer Larry Karaszewski Recalls 10-Year Journey to Make Rudy Ray Moore Biopic

    “Harriet” writer-director Kasi Lemmons was in a reflective mood at Tuesday night’s “Behind the Scene” event at the Formosa Cafe in West Hollywood, sponsored by the Writers Guild of America West. The biopic, starring Cynthia Erivo as slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman, has been receiving buzz since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s Lemmons’ [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Abrams Artists Agency Signs Writers Guild Deal

    In a major triumph for the Writers Guild of America, the Abrams Artists Agency has signed the WGA’s Code of Conduct, allowing the agency to return to representing WGA members again. Chairman Adam Bold made the announcement Wednesday, saying that the agency wants to put its clients back to work. He also noted WGA West [...]

  • Taika Waititi and Roman Griffin Davis

    Holocaust Experts Debate 'Jojo Rabbit' at Museum of Tolerance Screening

    With its comedic, cartoonish portrayal of Nazis, Taika Waititi’s satirical Hitler youth tale “Jojo Rabbit” has polarized critics and audiences alike. And that division continued to be stirred at Tuesday night’s screening of the film at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, where Liebe Geft, director of the museum, moderated a heated panel discussion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content