Terence Blanchard interview: ‘Da 5 Bloods’ composer

Spike Lee chose one helluva place to tell Terence Blanchard, his composer of 30 years, about his next project, “Da 5 Bloods.” “He told me about it right after the Oscar program [in 2019],” Blanchard tells Gold Derby at our Meet the BTL Experts: Film Composers panel (watch above). “He was standing in the aisle and he said, ‘Hey, man, I’m on a plane tomorrow going to shoot the next film.’ I went, ‘What? Why don’t you take a break, dude? Just sit down and relax.’ And he said, ‘No, man, I gotta get it done.’ And I was like, ‘OK.'”

The two were just coming off “BlacKkKlansman” (2018), which brought Lee his first Oscar win (for Best Adapted Screenplay) and Blanchard his first career nomination. Despite Blanchard’s shock at the director’s relentless pace, he was immediately onboard after Lee sent him a video for “Da 5 Bloods.” “I was blown away by what he had accomplished because to me ‘BlacKkKlansman’ was a feat and I was wondering what he was going to do visually and cinematically, but then he put this thing together,” he recalls. “It just took my breath away.”

After 30 years, they don’t have too many lengthy discussions about the sound for each film. “The main thing we talk about is how awful the Knicks are,” Blanchard quips. “No, but we do talk about things. We talk about some things that we haven’t done yet in terms of sound and instrumentals and colors, things like that. Spike’s thing is that it’s all about how he gets excited. When he brings a project to you, he turns into a little kid. He’s like, ‘Man, this next one, it’s gonna be something. You’re gonna have to bring your A game.’ He says that about every project. But he’s right. The beautiful thing about working with him is that he grows with every project. He’s not a stagnant person. He tries to elevate his game with everything that he does, which makes you want to work harder and become better at your craft.”

Lee’s top priority is for his scores to have strong melodic content for every character or situation, according to Blanchard. With “Da 5 Bloods,” Blanchard struggled with the emotional opening sequence of the film and spent longer than usual — five days — working on that theme, which became “What This Mission’s About.”

“There were so much going on in that scene, and from Spike’s point of view, the way he likes his films scored, it’s a challenge because in order to keep melodic content moving for that length of time without becoming boring or stagnant, there’s a lot of things you have to do,” he explains. “And it literally took me five days to write that scene. And I’m generally pretty quick at what I do, but I’d looked at every detail in that scene. It took me three days to write it and probably two days to orchestrate it.”

And yes, the duo is already working on a new project. “He’s working on a documentary right now. I’m excited about it,” Blanchard shares. “I haven’t seen anything, but it’s a documentary about New York from 9/11 to COVID-19.”

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UPLOADED Jan 27, 2021 1:53 pm