John Powell on Five of His Notable Scores

Composer John Powell talks about his five fave movie music projects and why:

Face/Off (1997)
“You do your first big movie, and it’s a John Woo film with Nicolas Cage and John Travolta. The premiere was at the Mann Chinese; Hans (Zimmer) got me a limo. There was a big crowd, and as I got out of the limo, there was this sigh of disappointment when they realized that it wasn’t John Travolta. I recommend this to all Hollywood composers. Within a small group of people, we may be well known, but it’s not why people go to the movies.”

Endurance (1999)
“The first person that Hans introduced me to, and got me involved with, was Terrence Malick. He was producing a docudrama about Haile Gebrselassie, the great Ethopian long-distance runner. Malick treated me as an artist. Hollywood is full of very, very artistic people. It is a business, and even Terrence Malick films have to make money. But ultimately there are a lot of people here who are interested in creativity.”

The Bourne Identity (2002)
“Doug Liman chose me while talking to me on the phone. I started writing things and he liked them. Hans casts a huge shadow, and ‘Bourne’ was very much an attempt to be different from Hans, so it was a reactionary score. Everything on that score was contrary; I was going to make everything sound small and dry, not big and wet. It was just electronic; there was no orchestra until the last minute. I had no idea that it was going to work. It was something that did change people’s perception of me, that freed me up from a lot of my own hang-ups.”

Happy Feet (2006)
“Working with (director) George Miller is a highlight because he’s the most kind, expressive and generous giver of knowledge, and he has a lot. He has a very particular view of what storytelling is about. To be able to sit with somebody that educated and (understand) the minutiae of every movement he makes within the story and why. … Hanging with him and getting to work on the first ‘Happy Feet’ improved everything I was doing. I did 12 films while I did ‘Happy Feet’ over four years and all of them benefited.”

Horton Hears a Who! (2008)
“I’m a big fan of Dr. Seuss. He’s one of America’s greatest assets (with) his ability to understand the truth of the world, the best and the worst of human nature, and communicate it to children in these wonderful rhyming couplets. I just wanted to try and communicate the joy that I feel is in the writing. The filmmakers gave me such wonderful free rein. I’m sure it’s one of the most expensive scores of all time; we had crazy groups of musicians making off-the-wall sounds. It was fun.”

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