Michael Giacchino Interview: ‘Coco’ and ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ composer
“I’m a pretty open book. You can tell how I was feeling when you listen to the music I was writing,” reveals composer Michael Giacchino as we chat via webcam (watch the exclusive video above). For Giacchino, his work always starts with finding the emotion driving the narrative of the film or television series he is composing for. “All of my music generally is [emotional],” he explains. “It’s never manufactured, but always out of a place of truth and experience, to give you a true emotional response.”
Giacchino is one of the most acclaimed composers working today, having won an Oscar (for “Up” in 2010), an Emmy (for “Lost” in 2005) and two Grammys (“The Incredibles” in 2006 and “Up” in 2010). That places him just a Tony Award away from joining the dozen people who have achieved an EGOT. He has had another busy year in 2017, composing three uniquely different scores, for “War for the Planet of the Apes,” “Coco” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” all of which each feature his signature ability to elicit visceral and emotional responses from audiences.
“For the average viewer, you want them to go and sit and be able to experience it all in one take. That big emotional wallop, between the visuals, the sound, the dialogue, the music,” the composer reveals. “Weaving that emotional narrative with music is very important because you could easily side track the story you are telling,” he says. “You’re always re-targeting, making sure your musical arc and the storytelling are on target.”
In particular, Giacchino says his experience on “War for the Planet of the Apes” really demonstrated how important certain emotions are to the way he writes and creates the musical cues that punctuate the films he works on. The third film of the “Planet of the Apes” reboot series is directed by Matt Reeves and stars Andy Serkis as ape leader Caesar. It features the final climactic battle between the apes and humans for control of the planet, and has been lauded for Giacchino’s rousing score, its stunning visuals and for the motion-captured performance by Serkis. Giacchino says it was that performance that ultimately inspired him. “Caesar is all about empathy, wanting to do what’s best for everyone, trying to make people aware that they can live together,” he explains. “He’s constantly fighting for that better place to be, and here suddenly he is pushed into a corner, into a place where he no longer had access to any of that empathy, any of the sadness that he was feeling, all he had left was anger. I thought that was a really interesting story to tell musically. What do you when you are left with only anger. How do you get through that to find the empathy, to find the sadness and allow yourself to heal and move on?