×

Pope: Supporting player gets close-up on ‘Marilyn’

Eye on the Oscars: The Music - Conrad Pope

One of film music’s behind-the-scenes heroes finally emerges from the shadows with his score for “My Week With Marilyn.”

Conrad Pope is well known in L.A. music circles as one of the most experienced, versatile and dramatically astute orchestrators in town. He has worked with everyone from John Williams (“Memoirs of a Geisha”) to James Newton Howard (“Water for Elephants”) and Alexandre Desplat (the two-part “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”).

Pope has composed a handful of films, notably 2001’s “Pavilion of Women,” but he’s better known as the guy to call when you are a) in a jam; b) need an experienced arranger; or c) require a classy orchestral touch.

For “My Week With Marilyn,” Desplat wrote a theme for the film but insisted that the full score be handled by Pope, his friend and collaborator for the past four years.

The film is a fictionalized account of a young man’s involvement with Marilyn Monroe while she was shooting “The Prince and the Showgirl” in England with Laurence Olivier. Desplat’s theme, Pope says, is heard “when you see Marilyn at her most vulnerable. It is the mirror of her soul, and also a reflection of what we know to be her ultimate destiny. That theme captures her fragility, her insecurities.”

But that’s only about a fifth of the score. Overall, Pope says, “music had to make this cinematic. It had to have the energy of the 1950s, a kind of youthful vitality.”

So Pope added some big-band touches reminiscent of arranger Billy May. He was also responsible for the film’s emotional arc, as it becomes more about the people around Monroe and how she’s changed their lives.

The film was undergoing major changes when Pope came onboard in July. He worked for four weeks, often scoring scenes more than once, then orchestrating and conducting a 65-piece London orchestra.

Classical pianist Lang Lang played the solos and, Pope says, “brought extraordinary emotion to the music,” especially the touching Desplat theme.

Pope, who identifies himself as “a journeyman musician,” says he’s “somebody that shows up and does what needs to be done. I help a composer, or any score, be the best it can be.”

For “My Week With Marilyn,” he says, “you needed music that was genuine, of the movie, of the voice of the film; music that would set the scene.”

EYE ON THE OSCARS: THE MUSIC
Lyrics bring pix to life | Stars tune up plots | John goes Gaga over inanimate romance
SCORE CARD
From rising stars to Oscar winners, seven composers talk about the method to their musicality:
Henry Jackman | Alberto Iglesias | Dario Marianelli | Michael Giacchino | Abel Korzeniowski | Conrad Pope | Thomas Newman

More Music

  • Neyla Pekarek

    Watch Neyla Pekarek's Michel Gondry-Inspired Cardboard Kitsch Video (EXCLUSIVE)

    Neyla Pekarek’s post-Lumineers solo career is off to a strong start with a show at the Opry at the Ryman on Saturday night and the Monday release of her new video for the song “Train.” The clip was directed by Los Angeles’ Liza Nelson and features Pekarek riding a cardboard constructed locomotive in a look reminiscent [...]

  • Benny Andersson, Anni Frid Lyngstad, Agnetha

    Abba’s New Music Delayed Until Later This Year

    Abba fans rejoiced last April when the group, which split up 35 years ago, announced that they had recorded two new songs for a “Virtual Abba” experience in collaboration with “American Idol” creator Simon Fuller. The project first announced in 2016, and was scheduled to premiere, via digital versions of band members, on NBC and ABC [...]

  • Erykah Badu Attempts to Clarify Her ‘Prayer’

    Erykah Badu Attempts to Clarify Her ‘Prayer’ for R. Kelly

    Erykah Badu took to Twitter Sunday night in an attempt to clarify her “prayer” for R. Kelly, which she spoke about during a Saturday concert in Chicago. “I don’t know how everybody else feels about it but I’m putting up a prayer right now for R.,” she said to the crowd before referencing the longstanding [...]

  • Harry Connick Jr.

    Harry Connick Jr. Swears Off Super Bowl After Saints Defeat

    Tempers flared during today’s NFC championship game between the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams at the Super Dome after a controversial non-call on a potential pass interference penalty and head-to-head hit by L.A. defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman, who slammed into Saints pass receiver  Tommylee Lewis on a crucial third-down play. The ref’s decision [...]

  • Editorial use only. No merchandising.Mandatory Credit:

    Lady Gaga Slams Government Shutdown, Mike Pence at Vegas Residency

    Lady Gaga took a short break from singing “Million Reasons” at her Saturday performance of “Enigma” in Las Vegas to slam the president for the continued government shutdown. While sitting at the piano for her performance, Gaga broke into a takedown of the government shutdown and Vice President Mike Pence, who has been in the [...]

  • maggie rogers

    Album Review: Maggie Rogers' 'Heard It in a Past Life'

    Maggie Rogers earned one of those very rare “Saturday Night Live” slots in which a musical guest is booked onto the show well in advance of her major label debut album’s release — two and a half months prior, in this case. And the scrutiny of such an appearance is not always pretty. Rogers’ “SNL” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content