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July 26, 2006

 

The Musical Wardrobes of
Harry Gregson-Williams

Biography


Studied at St John's College, Cambridge and Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Protege of composer Stanley Myers.

Invited to be a part of Media Ventures by Hans Zimmer

Composition Credits (Film)

The Chronicles of NARNIA: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe
Domino
Kingdom of Heaven
Bridget Jones:
The Age of Reason
Man on Fire
Shrek 2
Team America: World Police
Phone Booth
Shrek 4-D
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas
Veronica Guerin
Shrek
Spy Game
Chicken Run
King of the Jungle
The Tigger Movie
Antz
Armageddon
Enemy of the State
The Replacement Killers
Smilla's Sense of Snow
The Borrowers
Broken Arrow
The Rock
The Whole Wide World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


On the heels of receiving a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Dramatic Score for his work for NARNIA:  THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, Tracksounds is able to speak with composer, Harry Gregson-Williams about his epic score, working with director Andrew Adamson, and even the influence (or lack thereof) of Howard Shore's work for THE LORD OF THE RINGS.


 

The Interview

I certainly respect Howard Shore and he certainly did a good job, but it was never on my mind (when scoring Narnia). I never thought I want to do this or that like him. I'm just not familiar enough with what he did actually."

Harry Gregson-Williams

CC:How much did your previously working relationship with director Adamson have to do with your involvement with this project?

HGW: It had everything to do with it!

CC: So was anyone else even considered to score the film?

HGW: No. He asked me to do it a long time ago.

CC: What did you do to prepare for NARNIA?

HGW: Well when he asked I had three or four movies to do before I got to NARNIA, actually. That included KINGDOM OF HEAVEN which was a huge effort for me at the time. I did re-read the book and read his (Andrew Adamson's) script, but there wasn't much else I could do at that time since he (Adamson) had a long shoot to go through in New Zealand.

CC: How was this project different from working with Adamson on SHREK and SHREK 2?

HGW: Well first in regards to the two SHREK films, while he was the lead director, he certainly wasn't the only director or the producer. For NARNIA he was the director and one of the producers. So he had a huge responsibility and NARNIA, of course, is a live-action film...and this was the first time he had directed a film like that. So the experience for him, I think, was very different. Consequently, the film is so different from the two SHREK films. There weren't actually too many similarities between the Shrek films and NARNIA projects other than that we are both the same two people. We two have those experiences together, an understanding, and a friendship...and that will help in the end.

It is much more difficult to jump onto a film with a director that you have never worked with before. Having worked with Adamson before and moving onto NARNIA together is what I'd called an ideal scenario. Of course, it doesn't make it any easier...by the way! The man (Adamson) is still hard as nails!

CC: I assume, then, he was even more involved than he was in SHREK films in regards to the score.

HGW: Yes musically, but in contrast to the two SHREK films which had 45 minutes of score and 70 minutes of score respectively, it was clear that this project would have about twice that amount.

CC: ...And no John Powell or other collaborator on this one!

HGW: Yes, that's true, but I was sure to leave myself enough time to work on it.

CC: You said you read the book again. How big of a role did that play in regards to you developing themes and melodies for the film or the musical palette of the score?

HGW: Not too much actually, because although the movie is a pretty faithful adaptation of the book, it is quite different in many ways. It wasn't until I saw the first cut of the movie, where I could see the look of it, the look of the characters. I found that what I felt emotionally, when compared to the book, was quite different and it was then at that point that I could really "get under the skin" of the project. That said, it was great to have re-read the book and to have gotten into that headspace. Now the script also provided a lot of good information because, of course there were scenes in the script that weren't even in the book.

CC: Now, I'll ask a question that I'm sure many film music fan's have thought about. Inevitably, people are going to compare what Howard Shore did for THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy and what Harry Gregson-Williams has done for NARNIA.

HGW: What was that like, by the way?

CC: The score for THE LORD OF THE RINGS?

HGW: Yes. Nothing really stuck out to me. I doubt really recall any of the different themes or different textures. I think he used a lot of brass or something? Since I don't own any of the soundtracks to those movies, they certainly weren't my starting point or my finishing point. I certainly respect Howard Shore and he certainly did a good job, but it was never on my mind. I never thought I want to do this or that like him. I'm just not familiar enough with what he did actually.

CC: I see! So you were being facetious about not knowing much about Howard Shore's score!

HGW: Ha! No. Not at all!

CC: Now with your background in teaching music to young people, it must have thrilled you to have been a part of bringing one of the most famous and beloved stories of the 20th century to the big screen.

HGW: Absolutely! I consider myself incredibly fortunate and hopefully I have been able to deliver a combination of everything I've learned thus far. Of course, I don't profess to know it all and am still traveling along that "learning curve," but this has been precisely the sort of film I'd want to "knock out of the park."

CC: ...and I'd say you've done that. Would you say NARNIA, or KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, or perhaps some other project was a "turning point" in your career?

HGW: Well, no, Chris, you see I never really think of what I do as a "career." I sort of fell into film scoring accidentally. It wasn't something I studied to do or intended to have happen.

CC: Would you say then that projects like NARNIA or KINGDOM OF HEAVEN are allowing you to move into places you have previously not been able to spend a lot of time...namely predominately orchestral scores?

HGW: No. Not at all actually. While writing for and standing up in front of an orchestra is truly an amazing thing, I do like variety in my work. so I don't plan to limit myself in any way. For me it has always been about the project and what the possibilities are within that project. You know, I wouldn't want to spend the next five years writing a score for a film like PHONEBOOTH again and again and again, but at that moment, it was fascinating to me. Whether I write for an orchestra or down a different path, writing something that is purely electronic, they both present different challenges, enormous, musical conundrums. I think that is what I find fascinating and terrifying all at once.

CC: Now you have been nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Are you excited about that and do you plan to attend?

HGW: I think so, but I don't really know when it is!

CC: How did you find out that you had been nominated?

HGW: My agent phoned me up early one day...and it just happened to be my birthday. All I could think was, "What the hell was so important that someone had to call and wake me up." It took me a while to even figure out what he was talking about.

CC: Now, are you going to be involved with any sequels?

HGW: Well, I just talked to Andrew Adamson, who was just tired as a dog, by the way, and were going to meet up in the very near future and I guess we'll discuss it.

CC: Well, I'm quite sure that the fanbase will be excited to see and hear more from the land of NARNIA. Thank you so much for you time and good luck on your upcoming projects!

HGW: Thank you, Chris.

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