Alexandre Desplat Interview: ‘Isle of Dogs’ composer
Visually, the animated movie “Isle of Dogs” relies heavily on Japanese influences, but Alexandre Desplat had a very different idea when it came to film’s score. “What we decided on this one was to avoid, aside from the taiko drums, there’s no other folkloric instruments,” he tells us in a recent chat (watch the video above). He elaborates on the power that the taikos provide, saying they “are strong enough and they have such a range of sounds, frequency and dynamic that it can do a lot.” Desplat surrounded the taiko drums with instruments such as saxophones, recorders, French horns and the double bass in order to keep the rest of the score in our own contemporary world. “Even though it’s set in Japan, it keeps the world of music in our own.”
While “Isle of Dogs” marked his fourth collaboration with director Wes Anderson, Desplat still found challenges in delivering a good score: “It’s very frightening because you know that you have to be as good as the last time, where if you were good, you have be even better. It can be easier because you have a friendship or a collaborative energy that’s already there, but the danger is the same.” He adds that there’s a great eagerness to surprise your partner in the way that you try to fulfill their desires as a filmmaker. He had a similar experience with another film this year, “The Sisters Brothers,” which marked his seventh collaboration with director Jacques Audiard.
Desplat’s career as a composer for cinema has been going on for just over two decades and his history at the Oscars goes back to 2006 when he received his first Best Original Score nomination for “The Queen.” Back in March of this year, he earned his second Academy Award win for Original Score (and ninth career nomination) for this year’s Best Picture champ, “The Shape of Water.” Three years before that, he picked up his first Oscar win for his previous collaboration with Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
His first win was a complete surprise for him, mainly because he was nominated against himself for his score to “The Imitation Game.” He explains, “I was sure that I was not going to win because of the two nominations, so I was leaning back in my chair waiting for someone else to get on stage. I had not prepared a speech, but I did hear my name and I did hear ‘Grand Budapest’ because I heard the music starting as I was rising from my chair and kissing my wife.” He was so unprepared that he feels like he wasn’t able to appreciate the moment as much as he should have. He was more prepared and relaxed the second time around and found that was able to enjoy the experience more. “I was so happy because the film was getting so much recognition and Guillermo del Toro is such a beautiful human being and I was so happy for him to get all this light on his work. It was very different.”