Last week, I interviewed composer Hans Zimmer for EMPIRE to discuss his score for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES for the mag’s TRACK BY TRACK feature (which you can read in the next issue, hitting the stands at the end of this month). At the end of our 40-minute chat – and before a Warner Bros flack called time – the subject inevitably turned to Zimmer’s equally high-profile follow-up gig, SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL. Zimmer had pointedly nixed the idea of potentially doing Superman (“ No – and I’m not thinking of rewriting Beethoven’s ninth either. It just sounds like a thankless task, you know? So that’s unequivocally a “no”…”) before, surprisingly, doing a complete U-turn and accepting the gig to score the highly-anticipated feature, likely down to the fact that it is being produced by his Batman and Inception collaborator, Christopher Nolan.
“When the rumours came out that I was going to do Superman, the fact was that nobody had asked me!” says Zimmer, who swiftly realised that his off-the-cuff comments could be interpreted that he was actively being sought for the film. “The horrible thing was that I had never met Zack Snyder and, suddenly, poor Zack must have been reading that the crazy German is going to be doing my movie and I’ve never even met him! So, I had to squash those rumours. Plus – and let’s be honest – I am only human and John Williams is super-human. That Superman theme is beloved and iconic. It’s a pretty hard act to follow and it’s like me saying to you can you turn this interview in to a decent piece of Shakespeare. You’ll say “Maybe not today…!”
“I phoned Zack and said I am really, really sorry about these rumours – it wasn’t me, it’s just a misunderstanding. You’ve got your composer and I never tried to get in between relationships or anything like that. We started talking and he told me about his ideas for the character and his take was really interesting. I started getting a couple of ideas as a result. I said to Zack – and Warners and Chris [Nolan] and everyone involved – “don’t talk to me about it until we finish [The Dark Knight Rises]” …. and, within 15 minutes of finishing it, we were talking about it.”
So, despite his earlier, extreme reticence about the task of remaking one of the most famous themes in Film music, does he now feel confident that he has a strong course to pursue?
“I don’t feel confident at all. I never feel confident. But, a little bit of fear has gone a long way to being inspiring in the past. John Williams is the master and I am not even going to try and go in that direction. I’ll try my best not to embarrass myself and my colleagues on the film. I’m definitely going to have a go! In a funny way, it’s exactly because Superman is such an opposite character to Batman that I am welcoming the opportunity to do the music.”
Has he seen footage from the film? “Yes. All you’re going to get out of me is a “yes”! No elaborations! I’ve started it and am in the ideas phase. I am driving people crazy with my experiments and am trying to write a tune.” The one thing Zimmer will say is that his signature use of percussion – which he jokingly refers to as “his endless quest for the perfect drum-hit” will not be as prevalent in MAN OF STEEL as on his Batman scores. “I am going to try and avoid it. It’s a big conversation I am having with myself right now: how can we avoid that…!!“
It’s interesting to speculate whether there was actually another composer lined up to do MAN OF STEEL and who was dispensed with once Zimmer expressed serious interest, or that there wasn’t and Zimmer just assumed there was someone in place. Whatever the case, it’s very encouraging to know that Zimmer is entirely aware of the enormity of his task and that he will not only be steering away from the dark, sturm-und-drang of his Batman work but also Williams’ approach. Time will tell…
(Interview reprinted with kind permission from EMPIRE.)