David Schwartz interview: ‘Lucy and Desi’ composer
Composer David Schwartz hadn’t scored many documentaries prior to working on “Lucy and Desi,” Amy Poehler‘s Emmy-nominated film about television pioneers Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. After seeing an early cut of the film, Schwartz saw that his approach would be similar to that of any other movie. “As I worked on this doc, I realized it was more like a scripted film,” he says. “It had drama. It had comedy. It just felt like it was a narrative story and it had big themes.” The film has been nominated for four Emmys, including one for Schwartz’s score. Check out more of our exclusive video chat with the composer above.
For Schwartz, who has earned three previous Emmy nominations for is work on “Deadwood,” “Arrested Development” and “Wolf Lake,” the film provided him with the chance to dabble in a variety of styles, from 1940’s big band to rhumba. There was even early talk of re-recording the famous “I Love Lucy” theme song. However, Schwartz says he is grateful that the idea was jettisoned. “I secretly hoped that that idea would go away, and it did,” he says. “I knew I could do something great and modern and make it different. But changing it doesn’t always make it better.”
Schwarz explains that Poehler wanted the score to support the drama of the film rather than lean into the inherent comedy of its subjects. “She wanted more drama and more tension. She wanted that side. The comedy came because it was Lucy and Desi,” he argues. “The love themes were big and the tension was big, and it all comes together throughout the movie.”
The examination of the deep love between Ball and Arnaz is exemplified in one of the film’s most powerful sections. As Arnaz’s health begins to decline, he and Ball gather together to watch reruns of their classic show. Just hours before his death, Arnaz and Ball have a tender phone conversation. Schwartz wanted these scenes to be emotional without being melodramatic. “I didn’t want it to be over the top,” he argues. “I think that was an area where I wanted a little more subtlety. There was beauty in it too, so I wanted to have it be achingly beautiful and sad.”