×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

14-Time Oscar Nominee Thomas Newman on Scoring Space Drama ‘Passengers’

This is not a typo: Thomas Newman has earned 14 Oscar nominations without a win. The composer behind such iconic scores as “The Shawhsank Redemption” and “American Beauty,” son of legendary composer Alfred Newman, finds himself back in the race with director Morten Tyldum’s sci-fi romance “Passengers.” Though he’s tackled countless genres, Newman spoke to Variety about the unique challenges of composing the sound of outer space.

***

How did you come to be involved with “Passengers?”

For me, it was space. I’ve done space a little bit with “WALL-E,” but I’d never really done a space movie and the idea of floating through space interested me.

How do you go about creating the sound of the future?

Probably anywhere that gives you an idea. You just want to have an idea and if it’s a success, you ask where else it can go. It’s a practical approach to a poetic task, I think. You associate space with a lot of silence, and I think that proved to be wrong in terms of music in “Passengers.”

How do you choose when to utilize silence?

Popular on Variety

You learn as you go. You learn what part of the drama can last without music and how music can add to the enjoyment or sharpen the tone of something. Obviously along the way there’s tons of input you get from a director and editor, so it’s highly, highly collaborative. Silence is always such a great thing. Maybe the best thing about music is its entrances because it’s a heightening thing. The tough thing about movie music is going away because in most cases you have to dribble away and hope people don’t notice it’s faded out.

Because you’re working in a known genre, were there any tropes you wanted to avoid?

I guess organs on a low key note reverberating. Or clusters of vocals. Those iconic sounds. And sometimes that stuff works because you are operating in a genre. So you have to be aware of what gives pleasure and satisfaction next to what you think is tired, because you’ve heard it and didn’t invent it.

This is a sci-fi movie, but it’s also a relationship film. How did that affect the score?

When I first saw the movie I thought, “Well, not a lot of music.” And Morten Tyldum said, “No, I see tons of music in this movie!” It was clear the more I got to know the movie, it’s a love story and things happen and the story keeps moving forward incrementally in ways that had to be accommodated appropriately with music. It just turns into the nature of the beast; you kind of get to know the nature of the beast as you go along and it wipes out your preconceptions.

What ended up being the biggest challenge in scoring the film?

The first two thirds of the movie are more sensual and atmospheric than the last third. So I think finding an action movie tone that doesn’t violate the tone you’ve set up in the first third. Finding that vocabulary and music was hard.

You’ve done so many genres, is there one you haven’t done yet you’d like to take a shot at?

Wow, I’ve never thought about that. I’ve done a wide range. I started with teen comedies — in the 80s I was the teen comedy/synth guy. People thought I didn’t want to do serious movies because I was doing “Real Genius” and “Revenge of the Nerds.” You know, I’ve never done a western! I did a movie with horses in it but not really a western. That would be fun.

More Film

  • Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt in

    Joanne Froggatt Treads Singapore Red Carpet, Revisits ‘Downton Abbey’ Memories

    “Downton Abbey,” the feature adaptation of the hit British television series of the same name, had its local premiere at the 30th Singapore International Film Festival on Friday night. Representing the film on the red carpet was Golden Globe best supporting actress-prizewinner Joanne Froggatt, who played lady’s maid Anna Bates in all six seasons of [...]

  • THE IRISHMAN (2019)Ray Ramano (Bill Bufalino

    Despite Controversy, 'The Irishman' Is Netflix's Biggest Theatrical Release at Home and Abroad

    Despite friction in the U.S. over its release in select cinemas, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” is enjoying the biggest theatrical rollout of any Netflix film to date, with key international markets screening the movie and bolstering its profile as awards season gets underway. The nearly three-and-a-half-hour mob epic has secured relatively large releases in major [...]

  • Stone, guitarist for Taiwanese pop band

    Mayday Guitarist, Stone Rallies Fans at Singapore Film Festival

    Stone, the Taiwanese performer who has gone from being the guitarist in Mayday to a promising acting career, drew crowds on Friday, the first full day of the Singapore International Film Festival. Speaking at Projector, the indie theater inside the historical Golden Mile building, some two hundred fans gathered to hear the artist share career [...]

  • The Tempest (concept art)

    Film Bazaar: Rinkel Film Boards Tamil Western ‘The Tempest’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netherlands production outfit Rinkel Film (“Rafiki”) has reteamed with India’s Stray Factory (“Nirvana Inn”) for Tamil language Western “The Tempest” (aka “Aasaimugam”). It is to be directed by emerging Indian filmmaker Arun Karthick. The two companies previously co-produced Karthick’s communal bigotry tale, “Nasir,” which benefited from a grant of €50,000 ($55,350) under the Netherlands Film [...]

  • ‘Wallace and Gromit’ Studio Aardman to

    ‘Wallace and Gromit’ Studio Aardman to Make Short Film ‘Robin Robin’ for Netflix

    “Shaun the Sheep” and “Wallace and Gromit” producer Aardman is making “Robin Robin,” a short film, for Netflix. The project marks a move away for Aardman from working with the BBC, which has broadcast the Oscar-winning stop-motion specialist’s hit projects over the years. “Robin Robin,” which will bow around Christmas 2020, is about a bird [...]

  • Graham Norton to Host 2020 BAFTA

    Graham Norton to Host 2020 BAFTA Film Awards Ceremony 

    Popular British talk show host Graham Norton has been tapped to host the 2020 BAFTA Film Awards ceremony. Norton currently fronts the ratings-winning “The Graham Norton Show“ for the BBC. In assuming hosting duties for the upcoming BAFTA ceremony on Feb. 2, he will be taking over from “Absolutely Fabulous“ star Joanna Lumley, who hosted [...]

  • “Facing It,” an eight-minute 30 second

    U.K. Short 'Facing It' Takes Top Prize at 2019 VIEW Awards

    “Facing It,” a claymation/live-action film about how relationships mold people, has won the 2019 VIEW Conference Award for best short film. The film was written and directed by Sam Gainsborough and co-written by Louisa Wood and produced at the National Film and Television School’s Beaconsfield Studio in Beaconsfield, U.K. The VIEW Awards are an offshoot [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content