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Behind Henry Jackman’s Most Notable Scores, From ‘Captain America’ to ‘Captain Phillips’

“X-Men: First Class” (2011)
The second of Jackman’s three films with director Matthew Vaughn (the others were “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”), the score for “X-Men: First Class” “was kind of a breakout score for me,” Jackman recalls. “I started writing something pompous and classical, and Matthew said, ‘No, we’ve got to keep it cool.’ They were all young and needed something emergent and not overly mature. There are some pretty ballsy guitars and some breakbeats in there.”

“This Is the End” (2013) and “The Interview” (2014)
Jackman’s “dead straight classical” approach, as he puts it, to Kim Jong-un’s theme in “The Interview,” and his over-the-top choral requiem in “The End,” helped to hype the humor in both Seth Rogen-Evan Goldberg films. Rogen tells Variety: “Henry has been a huge part of our directing process. He has the skill of an amazing classical composer and the sense of humor of a 12-year-old, which for us is the perfect combination. He’s taken scenes that suck and made them presentable, if not actually good.”

“Wreck-It Ralph” (2012) and “Big Hero 6” (2014)
“I did some pretty geeky research,” says Jackman of the video-game music-riot “Wreck-It Ralph.” “It was a very layered, textured film with a lot of different ideas. [With ‘Big Hero 6’] We wanted modern textures at the very beginning. These kids are designing technology and trying to get into nerd school. Bassoons aren’t the first thing that spring to mind.” Studio executive music producer Tom Macdougall cites the mythical San Francisco-meets-Tokyo setting: “What is the soundscape of that? The answer would not be a classic orchestral score. It needed to educate the audience about this location, and Henry has a gift for finding interesting textures and sounds.”

“Captain Phillips” (2013)
For Paul Greengrass’ Tom Hanks-starring thriller about an American cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates, the concept was “to paint a picture in sound, but not be invasive by being melodically intrusive, to be descriptive in support of the film without coming into the foreground,” Jackman says. His minimalist score added color and texture without being too specific, geographically or emotionally.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) and Captain America: Civil War (2016)
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” dealt with Cap’s World War II pal Bucky being turned into an assassin. “There was a schism inside this person, and Henry’s score expressed that idea better than anything in the movie,” says co-director Anthony Russo. “He created a special sound, which sounds like screeching strings but is actually a human voice [distorted and electronically processed].”

Captain America: Civil War,” on the other hand, “drew from a more classical composition style, like Prokofiev,” says co-director Joe Russo. “‘Winter Soldier’ was a very interior movie, about Cap’s struggle, and ‘Civil War’ is played out on a grander, more operatic scale. Both are in service of the storytelling and the approach to the films.”

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