With the scores for Batman, The Flash, Dick Tracy, Spider-Man, Men in Black and the first Hulk film to his credit, no one has raised the baton more often or the bar higher on comics-to-screen music than Danny Elfman (among a slew of other high-profile film and television projects). Even his surname sounds quirkily superheroic, reflecting the often off-kilter twist he brings to classical action flick arrangements.
This summer the ex-Oingo Boingo frontman adds two more projects from the comics to his orchestral resume with the wildly divergent scores for Wanted and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. ComingSoon.net/Superhero Hype! caught a few moments with the maestro who’s still striking all the right notes.
CS/SHH!: You’ve got two big comic scores coming out this summer. In a nutshell how would you describe the “Wanted” music and the “Hellboy II” music?
Elfman: “Hellboy II” is big and very much inspired by Bernard Herrmann, who was my inspiration on the science fiction movies that I grew up on as a child. It’s much more romantic. “Wanted” is weirder.
CS/SHH!: Was “Wanted,” which has much edgier music, more fun?
Elfman: Well, they are each fun in a different way. “Hellboy” was a little more romantic and traditional, but I love paying homage to Bernard Herrmann, who for me is my master. Any time I get to do that it’s a great joy. “Wanted” is like a whole other ballgame. I did a whole different thing: more synthesizers, percussion, and guitars. I had my guitar out. I was so glad that the two of them were so different.
CS/SHH!: What’s the essential ingredient in your process? Do you sit down and look at the comic book sources for inspiration at all before putting the notes down?
Elfman: I just focus on the movie. All the way back with “Batman,” when I started I read the comics. When I saw the movie, the movie is the movie. You could do ten different movies of the same comic, but it will be ten different scores. I learned over the years to just concentrate on the movie. If I start thinking of the comic I will start thinking of a different score. It might actually make it harder down the line. I try to blank myself out when I see the movie for the first time. I try to have nothing in my head at all preconceived. That works the best for me.
CS/SHH!: You got in on the ground floor of blockbuster comic book films, which have become a genre unto themselves.
Elfman: I know it’s interesting to see the whole thing go through the incredible growth that it’s gone through. I still get to kind of drop into it every now and then, and see if I can somehow still bring something original is always a challenge. What can I do? It’s fun stuff.
CS/SHH!: Are you aware of any other comics-inspired property that you’d really love to take a swing at and see what you come up with?
Elfman: Other properties have other people involved, and I don’t even want to say!
CS/SHH!: Do you have a favorite among your scores for comic book inspired properties?
Elfman: I don’t know that’s hard, you know? I don’t know. That’s like choosing [favorite] children.
CS/SHH!: How about somebody else’s comic book score that you love?
Elfman: John Williams is like the champion of the whole forum. His things are in another universe, literally. There are all of us and then there is John Williams. That is how I look at him his stuff has always been amazing. He helped really open the entire door to the very concept of big orchestral scores for this kind of genre. If it wasn’t for what he did in “Star Wars” and what he did for “Raiders” and “Superman” we wouldn’t still be able to do this stuff now.