‘Blackhat’ Composer on His Complaints That Film Used Little of His Work

When Harry Gregson-Williams attended the premiere of Michael Mann’s “Blackhat,” he was stunned to find very little of his 90 minutes of score left in the movie. He joins an ever-growing list of celebrated composers who have had all or part of their scores tossed by directors over the years, including Henry Mancini (Hitchcock’s “Frenzy”), Alex North (Kubrick’s “2001”) and Jerry Goldsmith (Ridley Scott’s “Legend”).

Gregson-Williams (“Kingdom of Heaven,” the “Shrek” films) was one of at least six composers who worked on “Blackhat” over the course of a year, and he is one of the two main credited composers. Atticus Ross (“Gone Girl,” “The Social Network”) is the other.

After attending the premiere, Gregson-Williams posted on Facebook that “the ‘score’ for ‘Blackhat’ may be credited to me but contains almost none of my compositions. … I was not the author of most of what is now in the movie.”

He added: “I therefore reluctantly join the long list of composers who have had their scores either sliced and diced mercilessly or ignored completely by Michael Mann. This is his film and these are his decisions, and I do respect that, but see no reason to have people mistake this score for one that I composed, or in any way approved of musically.”

Popular on Variety

Gregson-Williams later told Variety that he simply didn’t want his fans, seeing the film, to mistake the music in “Blackhat” as his. “I knew going into it that (Mann) would mix and match his favorite tracks. He would get a composer who he felt was good at certain things to do one thing, and another composer to do another.

“That’s not to say that I would approve of how he goes about that. But I have no complaints about it. I respect his way of doing things.” But, as he said in his original Facebook post, the movie contained music that “shocked and surprised” him and, because “my name is right there listed as the lead composer, one would expect that to mean something, but it doesn’t. And I do care about that.”

Gregson-Williams declined further comment, and deleted his Facebook post after a day. Ross also declined comment.

In a statement, Mann responded: “Harry’s a talented composer whose music needed editing and remixing to fit the contemporary subject and ambitions of our picture. He was one of four composers who contributed to the score, along with Atticus and Leo Ross, Ryan Amon and Mike Dean. It would have been preferable to me, too, if the delivered music could have been used as it was.”

Mann is well known for using multiple composers on his films, dating back to 1981’s “Thief,” for which Craig Safan was called in to augment the work of Tangerine Dream, and to 1992’s “The Last of the Mohicans,” for which Randy Edelman was asked to supplement and complement Trevor Jones’ original score.

Composer Elliot Goldenthal, who initially scored for Mann on “Heat,” said after working with him a second time on “Public Enemies”: “Michael has a propensity to change his mind the whole time. For some people it can be very frustrating. You think you’ve accomplished something, but you never know. It’s Kafkaesque.”

Adds another composer who has collaborated with Mann, and who asked for anonymity: “He gets all this music from loads of people and then puts it together in a way that he likes. He’s not a musician, and sometimes it’s led to something great, and sometimes it hasn’t. I would have dinner with him any night of the week. I just wouldn’t work for him again.”

More Artisans

  • American Factory

    'American Factory' Editor Had to Cut Down 2,000 Hours of Footage

    Editor Lindsay Utz admits filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert never fully counted the hours of footage shot for the Oscar-nominated documentary “American Factory,” but she puts it close to 2000 hours. Utz pored over the footage that Bognar and Reichert had spent over three years filming and whittled the story down to just under [...]

  • Tesla Movie Sundance

    Five Artisans Talk About Their Work on Buzzy Sundance Titles

    At this year’s Sundance, 118 features will make their debut. Here are five hotly anticipated films that will be in the mix and some of the artisans behind them.  Bad Hair (Midnight) Costume designer Ceci reconnects with Justin Simien (“Dear White People”) on a satirical horror set in 1989 Los Angeles, where ambitious Anna (Elle [...]

  • Joker Movie

    Make-Up Artist Nicki Ledermann on the Stages of 'Joker' Face

    When “Joker” make-up artist Nicki Ledermann came on board, she had some ideas in mind for the film and presented mock-ups to director Todd Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix — and both Phillips and Phoenix had already played around with ideas and showed Ledermann photos. “I had to take the design and it was up [...]

  • Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, California,

    Alison Small Set to Lead Training for Netflix in U.K. (EXCLUSIVE)

    Alison Small, CEO of The Production Guild of Great Britain, is in discussions to join Netflix as head of its training initiatives out of the U.K., Variety has learned. The Production Guild, whose members include line producers, production managers and location managers, among others, advertised for a new CEO last week. Its chair is Alex [...]

  • The Gentlemen Costume Design

    How Costume, Production Pros Used Class Style to Define Guy Ritchie’s ‘The Gentlemen’

    For Guy Ritchie’s newest crime-meets-action film “The Gentlemen,” about an American drug kingpin living in Britain and trying to sell his business, the director turned to his “Aladdin” team of costume designer Michael Wilkinson and production designer Gemma Jackson. But the backgrounds and looks they created had less to do with Arabian Nights than with [...]

  • Frozen 2 Rocketman Avengers Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame,' 'Frozen 2,' 'Rocketman' Take Top Honors at Lumiere Awards

    “Frozen 2” led the Advanced Imaging Society’s Lumiere Awards on Wednesday. The hit Disney sequel was honored with three Lumieres for immersive animated feature film, original song and use of HDR. Director Jennifer Lee was on hand to accept the prizes during a ceremony at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif. The Advanced Imaging Society [...]

  • 1917 Movie

    How the '1917' Special Effects Makeup Team Created Realistic Dead Bodies

    Prior to working on “1917,” special effects artist Tristan Versluis had designed no more than five or six corpses. But Sam Mendes, director of the WWI drama, which has garnered 10 Oscar nominations, needed Versluis, who picked up one of those noms in the hair and makeup category, to create 30 corpses and dead horses, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content