Nicholas Britell Q&A: ‘The Big Short’ composer
Composer Nicholas Britell became involved with “The Big Short” through producers Jeremy Kleiner and Dede Gardner. He had worked for the two on their Oscar-winner “12 Years a Slave,” writing and arranging the various on-camera musical moments. In our recent webcam chat, Britell reveals he brought a wealth of personal experience to Adam McKay’s Wall Street satire.
“I’ve always been a composer, my whole life,” he says. Starting as a classical pianist, he joined a hip hop band in college, where he also scored his first film. “Towards the end of college,” he continues, “my band was breaking up, and the movie I had scored didn’t come out.”
In order to make ends meet, Britell reveals, “I interviewed with someone who was a composer who worked on Wall Street, and I actually got a job early on trading currencies, like as a day job. It was this fascinating thing where I saw this whole other world, and at night was scoring movies and short films and giving concerts, and then eventually left to pursue my passion for composing.”
Britell's filmography up until now has been comprised mostly of documentaries and shorts (including the Natalie Portman segment of “New York, I Love You” and her debut short “Eve”). He says he was excited to bring some of his Wall Street background to the film. “I had always thought a little bit about the markets and what that might sound like."
As he explains, "when I first started talking to Adam about it, he didn’t know that I had traded currencies or anything like that at all, but we were talking about this idea of, ‘What is the sound of the markets? What is the sound of mathematics? What is the sound of a dark math?’ It was just very fascinating to bring some of these different perspectives to bear on it.”