“It was very organic,” reveals composer Rupert Gregson-Williams about working alongside his older brother Harry Gregson-Williams on Hulu’s limited series adaptation of the classic Joseph Heller novel “Catch-22.” “In this business, there’s no one that can have more empathy of the stresses and strains of what you’re trying to achieve than somebody who is another composer let alone another composer who is your own brother,” he says. “But it helps that we weren’t left alone on a desert island, where we probably would’ve killed each other,” Harry jokes. Watch the interview with the composers above.
“Catch-22” stars Christopher Abbott plays Captain John Yossarian, a bombardier stationed in Italy during World War II, desperate to finish off his flight missions and get the hell out of there. Based on the classic Heller novel, the limited series executive-produced by awards magnets George Clooney and Grant Heslov premiered Friday, May 17, on Hulu to rave reviews and an 85% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
The two acclaimed composers have a distinguished list of credits to their name to date, with Harry cited by BAFTA for his work on “Shrek,” and by the Grammys and Golden Globes for his work on “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” and Rupert a previous Emmy nominee for his work on Netflix’s flagship drama “The Crown.” However, after all these years, they had never worked together. After finding the right project in “Catch-22,” they relished the chance to do so as “everything fell into place for the first time,” Rupert suggests.
The brothers each took on specific parts of the sweeping and tonally diverse score, collaborating closely with Clooney and Heslov. “It was interesting working with the two of them; the two of us working with the two of them. They’ve been a team for years,” Harry says, adding that “it’s a good one for two people to do because there’s more than one aspect to the score. There’s the nature of the time period, the early 1940s, set during the first world war and then there’s the nature of the beast, a bloody strange beast and there’s quite a bit of humor in there,” he explains. “There was plenty of opportunity to pitch in on our own skill sets.”
While the score shifts between jazzy 1940s sounds to heroic and often emotional cues, the composers were keen to land on a set of consistent themes for the series, but “for the melody to be malleable enough, or elastic enough to give us the ability to score moments of sadness, tragedy and then to perk it up in a jazzy way,” Rupert explains. It was important to “turn things on their heel,” he adds. “From highly charged, emotional and traumatic to comedy, or sometimes we would do the reverse. But the melody was simple enough for us to be able to use them in both instances,” he says. “The different tones are quite a difficult needle to thread, and hopefully we managed to do that.”
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