×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Batman v Superman,’ ‘Deadpool’ Scores Give Superhero Status to Hans Zimmer Acolyte

People know Hans Zimmer as an Oscar-winning, much-in-demand composer. But there’s another side to the creator of scores for such films as “Interstellar,” “Gladiator” and “The Lion King”: Zimmer is a veritable mentoring machine, with many of his apprentices launching successful solo careers, including John Powell (the “Bourne” films), Harry Gregson-Williams (“The Martian”), Lorne Balfe (“Terminator Genisys”), Steve Jablonsky (the “Transformers” series) and Heitor Pereira (“Minions”).

The latest to be rocket-fueled by their time with Zimmer is Junkie XL, the stage name of Dutch artist Tom Holkenborg. After writing additional music for Zimmer on the “Madagascar” films and “Man of Steel,” Holkenborg was called upon in 2014 to tackle, on his own, “300: Rise of an Empire” and “Divergent.”

Last year he shook off all remaining boosters when he accompanied George Miller’s awards-guzzling “Mad Max: Fury Road” with a hybrid electronic/orchestral score that kept pace with the film’s insanity. (He also scored crime drama “Black Mass.”)

This year he has two of the hottest superhero tickets in town: “Deadpool,” which shattered R-rated film records, and the upcoming “Batman v Superman” — which he co-piloted with Zimmer.

In his former life, Holkenborg was a successful electronic/dance artist and DJ. He first took the stage in the late ’80s as a synth player in a Dutch New Wave act, then produced for metal and industrial bands. He adopted the “Junkie XL” moniker in 1997, when he released the electronica album “Saturday Teenage Kick.”

“It’s a long trajectory from coming here and wanting to (score films) to the point where a studio says, ‘OK, we’re going to give you the responsibility of this $200 million film.’”
Tom Holkenborg

That kicked off a decade in the rave and EDM scenes in Europe and the U.S., and soon he was being asked to contribute music to movies. “I wasn’t really a film composer at that point,” Holkenborg says. “I was just being an artist, providing cool pieces of music that a music editor would put throughout a film.”

But he got hooked, and moved to L.A. in 2002 on a mission to score films. “I pretty soon found out it was going to be a tough road,” he says. “On one hand you want to learn, on the other hand you want to work; you want to do something cool. But it’s a long trajectory from coming here and wanting to (score films) to the point where a studio says, ‘OK, we’re going to give you the responsibility of this $200 million film.’”

He discovered the best way in was by assisting established composers, and found work helping former Zimmer apprentices Gregson-Williams and Klaus Badelt. Through them he met Zimmer, and the two self-admitted geeks clicked immediately.

“Who else sends you a text at two in the morning with a picture of a new synth, and expects a reply at 2:05?” says Zimmer. “That’s us.”

Zimmer doesn’t believe that all musicians can move successfully to film scoring. The key attribute for the job: story sense. “I think you’re just born with it or you’re not,” Zimmer says.

In Holkenborg’s case, he cites an example from “Batman v Superman.” “We finally came up with a motif for Wonder Woman. It was pretty daring and noisy and out-there. I knew it was good, but I didn’t quite know how to marry it to the character.

“I remember Junkie being very specific: ‘OK, go to this frame and just lay it up against the frame.’ We played it back, and it was one of those great shocks: I thought it would never work, and it worked like magic. I remember looking at him and going, ‘Hmm … great story sense; great filmmaker here.’ ”

More Artisans

  • Alfonso Cuarón, Emmanuel Lubezki Discuss the

    Alfonso Cuarón Details 'Roma' Cinematography With 'Gravity' DP Emmanuel Lubezki

    As part of an overall push to bring Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” to awards season voters, Netflix’s “‘Roma’ Experience'” played host to guild and Academy members Sunday in Hollywood. The all-day event featured panels focused on the film’s crafts and an audio-visual installation akin to the streamer’s FYSee initiative for Emmy contenders, featuring costumes and art [...]

  • 12 08 _148.NEF

    Mississippi Beckons Producers With Southern Charm, High Incentives

    Mississippi may not be the first state that comes jumps into the mind of a producer considering locations for an upcoming shoot, but the state has a lot going for it, including a picturesque Southern ambience, antebellum homes, rich farmlands, pine forests, Gulf coast sands and casinos – not to mention significant rebates on qualified [...]

  • Charles Saldana Clint Eastwood Key Grip

    Key Grip Charlie Saldana Recalls His Long Career With Film/TV Greats

    Interviewing Charlie Saldana in the quiet of his North Hollywood home, the 79-year-old working key grip still exudes the cool confidence of someone who’s spent a lifetime in partnership with one of Hollywood’s great directors: Clint Eastwood. Saldana still possesses an actor’s looks, with a salt-white mustache and a full silver mane. He began his [...]

  • Directors Guild Selects Special Awards Recipients

    Film News Roundup: Directors Guild Selects Special Awards Recipients

    In today’s film news roundup, the DGA honors a pair of members for contributions to the guild, romantic comedy “Wild Honey” gets a release and VFX house Proof expands. DGA HONORS Unit production manager Kathleen McGill and associate director Mimi (Marian) Deaton have been selected as the recipients of the Directors Guild of America special [...]

  • C2_01217_RCMichael B. Jordan stars as Adonis

    'Creed II' Production, Costume Designers Worked Together to Get the Right Look

    Below-the-line department heads who have the opportunity to work together on more than one film often develop a kind of communications shorthand. For production designer Franco-Giacomo Carbone and costume designer Lizz Wolf, “Creed II” marks their fourth collaboration — a relationship that began with 2008’s “Rambo.” This worked to the great advantage of the eighth [...]

  • Yorgos Lanthimos The Favourite BTS

    How 'The Favourite' Director and Crew Defied Period Conventions

    Director Yorgos Lanthimos continues to defy conventions with “The Favourite,” a funny and savage look at the court of England’s Queen Anne in the early 1700s. “Period films are always challenging,” he tells Variety, “and with a limited budget, it takes a lot of work. So it was hard but fun.” Lanthimos and his crew [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content