×

Oscar-Winning Composer Michael Giacchino Has Three Movies Opening This Summer

Composers are the last creative contributors to a movie, and usually the ones who get crunched, schedule-wise, as release dates loom. In this regard Michael Giacchino has just been through the wringer. He has written and recorded, back-to-back, the scores for three summer tentpole movies, all being released within four weeks of each other.

Disney’s “Tomorrowland” opens first on May 22, Universal’s “Jurassic World” on June 12, and Disney-Pixar’s “Inside Out” hits theaters June 19.

In order to meet the deadlines, he has been working nonstop since late 2014. “The second I finished one, I was on to the next,” an exhausted Giacchino said during a quick break from writing “Jurassic.” “There is literally no margin for error whatsoever. The schedules fell like building blocks, right against each other.”

That wasn’t the plan, of course. “Tomorrowland” was supposed to score in November, but was shifted to March. “Inside Out” was to have been in February, but was moved back to January. And “Jurassic World” was recorded in early April.
“The great news is, all these directors know each other and they’re all friends,” he explains. “So it was not hard to say, ‘Hey, guys, can we structure this in a way where I won’t perish?’ ”

The last time this happened to Giacchino was six years ago when “Star Trek,” “Up” and “Land of the Lost” also opened within a four-week span. Giacchino remembers being at a multiplex where all three were playing and thinking, “ ‘Wow, that represents a lot of stress and work.’ Just looking at those signs was pretty daunting.”

And with an average of 90 minutes of music in each film — or somewhere between four and five hours of music cumulatively — Giacchino has had to write tens of thousands of notes, make sure the directors like what he’s doing, get it all orchestrated and then performed by L.A. orchestras of 85 to 100 players.

Luckily, all three directors are admirers, and two are previous customers. “Tomorrowland” director Brad Bird (for whom Giacchino has done “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille” and “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol”) says he considers the composer “a co-storyteller rather than somebody who’s going to put music to my pictures.

“By this time in the process,” Bird told Variety during the February “Tomorrowland” sessions, “you’re making all these little tiny improvements, these little steps forward. Then you hand it off to Michael and he makes this giant leap.”

In the case of “Inside Out,” an animated film that takes place inside the mind of a 13-year-old girl, director Pete Docter — whose previous film with Giacchino, “Up,” won Oscars for both men — started telling him about it “four or five years ago.”
Because both men have 15-year-old daughters (who also happen to be friends), the story became more personal, especially as they shared stories of parenthood and watching their girls grow up.

“He was on the exact same page, emotionally,” Docter says.

And if it’s a big summer movie, does the score need to be big and loud too? Especially if there are dinosaurs? “If it does, then we’re doing it wrong,” says “Jurassic World” director Colin Trevorrow. “The music is something that stays intimate even in the most intense action sequences.

“This movie is about the relationship we have with dinosaurs, and how it mirrors our relationships with animals we have on the planet today. Michael’s music has themes that are very personal, so once things start to go crazy, it makes it that much scarier.”

Giacchino says he tries to make every score as individual as possible. He sees “Tomorrowland” as “a very optimistic score,” befitting its premise; and “Inside Out,” an even more emotional score than his “Up.”

“After going through the emotional roller coaster of ‘Inside Out’ and the thoughtful and provocative ‘Tomorrowland,’” he says, “Jurassic World” is “more of a thrill ride.”

For all the pressure associated with these films, Giacchino likes the idea of having three in the summer marketplace. “That’s the time I remember as a kid, being so excited to go to the movies. To be part of that now is really an amazing gift.”

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Chuck Dauphin receives the CMA Media

    Country Music Journalist Chuck Dauphin Dies at 45

    Chuck Dauphin, the undisputed sweetheart of country music journalism, died Wednesday night at 45. Dauphin was the rare journalist who could claim the title “CMA Award winner.” The Country Music Association bestowed him with its CMA Media Achievement Award backstage during a lull in the telecast in 2014. A writer and radio personality who was [...]

  • JOHNNY CASH, with BOB DYLAN, c.

    Bob Dylan to Release Country-Themed Box Set, ‘Travelin’ Thru, 1967-69,’ Featuring Johnny Cash

    Columbia Records and Sony catalog division Legacy Recordings will release the boxed set “Bob Dylan (featuring Johnny Cash) – Travelin’ Thru, 1967 – 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 15” on Nov. 1. The set collects previously unreleased recordings from Dylan’s country-themed albums of the era, focusing on previously unavailable recordings made with Johnny Cash and unreleased [...]

  • Hailee Steinfeld photographed by Art Streiber

    Hailee Steinfeld Drops New Song From Apple TV Series ‘Dickinson’

    Oscar-nominated actress and singer Hailee Steinfeld dropped a new song on Thursday, “Afterlife (Dickinson)” from the upcoming Apple TV+ series “Dickinson,” in which she stars and serves as an executive producer. According to the announcement, Steinfeld drew lyrical inspiration from her character, Emily Dickinson, and the themes and ideas in many of her literary works. [...]

  • 'David Foster: Off the Record' Review:

    Toronto Film Review: 'David Foster: Off the Record'

    By the early 1970s, as the counterculture was dissolving and reconfiguring, there were new pop-star archetypes on the horizon that we still tend to think of — the glam rocker, the sensitive singer-songwriter, the hair-band metal strutter, the prog-rock wizard, the belting pop chanteuse, the punk rocker. But there was another figure of the era [...]

  • does self-described "family brands" business Hasbro

    With Hasbro Acquisition, Is eOne Planning to Offload Family-Unfriendly Properties?

    Hasbro’s $4 billion acquisition of eOne in August instantly put the Canadian toy giant in the league of major entertainment and content companies thanks to eOne’s arsenal of IP assets in music, television and film. But does the self-described “family brands” business that’s home to The Game of Life and My Little Pony align with [...]

  • Hopper Reserve

    Dennis Hopper's Dying Wish: His Own Strain of Marijuana

    Even as celebrity brands are starting to flood the emerging Cannabis market, Hopper Reserve stands out. The brand was launched by Marin Hopper, Dennis Hopper’s daughter from his marriage to Brooke Hayward. Hopper Reserve is a gram of California indoor-grown flower, two packs of rolling papers, a pair of matches and a trading card either [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content