Danny Elfman (‘White Noise’ composer): When writing a film score, ‘nothing excites me more than the lack of a genre’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

“Nothing excites me more than the lack of a genre,” reveals four-time Oscar-nominated composer Danny Elfman (“Good Will Hunting,” “Men in Black,” “Big Fish” and “Milk”) about his latest score for Noah Baumbach‘s anticipated “White Noise.” For our recent webchat he adds, “as I started working on the film, people would ask me, how would you describe this movie? I don’t know how to describe it. It’s cynical, but it’s not, It’s satirical, or social satire, but it’s not a social satire. It’s romantic, but it’s not a romance. It’s got thriller elements, but it’s definitely not a thriller. So I have no idea how to describe it. That to me is very exciting.” We talked with Elfman as part of Gold Derby’s special “Meet the Experts” Q&A event with 2022/2023 awards contenders. Watch our exclusive video interview above.

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“White Noise” is the latest from Oscar-nominated writer/director Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale” and “Marriage Story”), about a family’s attempts to deal with the mundane conflicts of everyday life while grappling with the universal mysteries of love, death, and the possibility of happiness in an uncertain world. The genre-bending drama was adapted from the 1985 novel of the same name by Don DeLillo, starring Oscar nominee Adam Driver and Oscar winner Greta Gerwig among an ensemble cast including Oscar nominee Don Cheadle, Raffey Cassidy, André Benjamin, Alessandro Nivola and Jodie Turner-Smith.

The film, much like DeLillo’s iconic novel, is often quite chaotic in its tone as it tackles quintessentially American themes and ideas in a searingly honest and unique way. It’s no surprise then that Elfman, whose work is often described as eclectic, was keen to write the score for a film that is so boldly un-tethered to a specific genre. “When I come across a film that just seems to have no sense of musically what it is, I get very excited. Normally I would wait for there to be some kind of director’s cut or something like that to start working on the film. But Noah was very keen that I just start writing from having read the script and the book,” he explains. “He just sent me out with these challenges, and I know this sounds ridiculous, but I’m a little bit as a composer like a dog, and if the director throws a stick in a certain direction, I’m really eager to run and chase it down. And so he would say things like, I see the tone here as somewhere between edgy eighties-influenced synthesizer-driven thriller music and Norman Rockwell or Aaron Copeland meets seventies or eighties Americana. These things that didn’t fit together at all. So that was very exciting for me.”

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