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Oscar nominee Mychael Danna on challenges of scoring 'Life of Pi'

By Zach Laws
By Zach Laws
Feb 15 2013 10:37 am
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Mychael Danna admits in the video chat below that composing the score for “Life of Pi” was one of the most daunting assignments of his 25-year career. “Pi and Richard Parker are an unusual and challenging relationship,” he says of the boy and the tiger at the center of this Best Picture nominee. “We’re not really sure what Richard Parker is, or what he symbolizes, or what the meaning is. Is he like Pi’s father says, just a reflection of you? Is it God? Is it a tiger? The film never answers this.”

This third collaboration between Danna and director Ang Lee -- after “The Ice Storm” (1997) and “Ride with the Devil” (1999) -- may well be the charm. The composer is predicted to prevail with his first Oscar nomination for Best Score. After winning the Golden Globe, he has the backing of 13 of our 21 experts as well as six of eight editors and two-thirds of users. All that support translates into odds of 9/5, which put him well ahead of five-time Oscar champ John Williams ("Lincoln") at 27/10. (Danna is also nominated for Best Original Song for “Pi’s Lullaby.” However, in that race Adele is far out in front for her title track to "Skyfall.")

Typically, a composer is brought on towards the very end of production but that wasn’t the case here: “As soon as this property came to (Lee), he got on the phone with me. That was probably four-and-a-half years ago. Right from that time, we started talking about the concepts and the themes of the story he wanted to tell.”

Danna detailed his process: “When I write a score, I generally start at the beginning and work through to the end, because just like the characters themselves, the musical themes undergo changes and maturity, and morph into different things by the end of the film. That’s really the essence of what you’re doing: you track the development and the relationships of these characters.”

 
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