Harry Gregson-Williams Q&A: ‘The Martian’ composer
Harry Gregson-Williams has been a frequent collaborator of both Ridley Scott and his late brother Tony. He scored eight films for Tony until his death in 2012, and worked with Ridley on three films, the latest of which is “The Martian.” As the composer recalls in our recent webcam chat, “Ridley sent me the script whilst I was doing some music for his previous movie, ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings.’ He said, ‘Look, this is special. You’ll want to do it.’ And indeed, he was right. What was not to like about it? I read it in one sitting and thought, ‘I’ve gotta be apart of this.’”
In telling the story of an astronaut (Matt Damon) who must use ingenuity and smarts to survive after being stranded on Mars, Gregson-Williams explains, “Our first port of call was to figure out what we were going to do about, (a) Watney’s character; and (b) the geographical situation of Mars.” In both instances, one influenced the other.
“We agonized a little bit about Mars: we thought perhaps we should make it really threatening or really dark, and one of these scores that you see all the time for sci-fi movies that are moody and atmospheric, not particularly tuneful. We decided we didn’t really have to go that route.”
He continues, “Watney’s character is such an optimistic, charismatic guy. In the face of all this trepidation and loneliness and treat, he manages to science his stuff, and he kind of enjoys doing it. He’s such a cool character that I started with his theme, and I found clearly that it needed to be an optimistic theme, and sometimes that literally translates to something that’s going up instead of a downer.”
Gregson-Williams received Golden Globe and Grammy nominations for composing the score for “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" (2005). And he and co-composer John Powell contended at the 2001 BAFTAs for their “Shrek” score.