Composer Harry Gregson-Williams has been crafting film scores since the 1990s, but “The Last Duel” gave him the opportunity to try something new. The Ridley Scott-directed film, which tells the story of a duel that took place in the 1300s between a man and his wife’s rapist, is enhanced with an evocative score that transports you to its medieval setting. But there are also notable action moments throughout the film that are presented without an underscore, with Gregson-Williams tasked with providing appropriate intro and outro music to those scenes. “This was new for me,” says Gregson-Williams in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. Watch the full interview above.
The composing process was also unusual in where Gregson-Williams began. Scott asked the composer to take note of the last page of the script, which included a scene that was ultimately deleted where Marguerite (Jodie Comer) sings to her young child. After he “scratched around the 1380s” and took inspiration from medieval composer Thibaut de Champagne, he came up with a melody that helped inspire what we would hear in the film as Marguerite’s theme. He wanted to give her theme a “vocal element,” having previously used vocals prominently on another Scott film, “Kingdom of Heaven.”
Each of the three main characters has their own theme, which are most prominent in their individual sections of the film. After a brief glimpse of the duel, we start with Sir Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), the stoic husband with a gift for battle. “I wanted his thematic material to start out quiet, stout and heroic and maybe warlike drums, but quite expected,” explains Gregson-Williams. For Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), the accused rapist, he wanted an unsettling tone and sought out singer Iestyn Davies to provide countertenor vocals. “There’s a certain quality there that’s I won’t say unnerving but can be quite haunting and strange,” observes Gregson-Williams.
At this point in his career, Gregson-Williams is drawn to the projects that allow him to stretch creatively. This is partly what draws him to Scott, whose passion for film is palpable. “He’s a perfectionist, which makes him tricky to work for,” the composer notes. And yet, “He’s always looking forward and moving forward. It’s a challenge to keep up with him, which I really enjoy.”
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