Since she was primarily used as an instrument rather than a straight song-singer, her voice really echoed the sentiment that we were peering into the past.
Sometimes you go into these things blind or not knowing how it is going to come out, but once we put Lisbeth against some of these visuals, we just knew that she grounded this thing and gave you a sense that these people were real. Frankly, I find that she does that every time she works with me. It is really a wonderful collaborative process.
There is a cut on the soundtrack called “Long Road Down,” which we took as an instrumental cue and turned it into a song, and Lisbeth was kind enough to put it on her upcoming album. We put snippets of that song in a few different parts in the film, and when they come up, her words about vengeance and darkness really hit you! Even Kevin Costner remarked about how much he liked the impact and the words of that song.
Was there a distinct division of labor between you and Tony Morales? What was the composing relationship like for this project?
Tony is a great composer, and I’m glad to have worked with him several times. And I knew going into this, with four-hours of music, I had to have help. And I’m thrilled for Tony, because this was his first nomination, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. There really was no scientific method for dividing up the cues. I wrote the major themes, Tony wrote some ancillary themes, and we went from beginning to end bouncing ideas off of one another until it was completed. We had a lot of work to do in very little time, so we basically just jumped in the water and started swimming.
I would imagine it would be very difficult to score a film like this, because in essence, the only villain, if there is one, is Jim Vance (Tom Berenger’s character). Neither family is really evil or good; they are both in the same boat.
Yeah, you just hit upon the crux of the whole issue. There really is no good or bad guy in this whole thing. Both families were equally ruthless. It was a situation that just got so out of hand to the point of absurdity. Even after a generation or so, neither side really knew why they had this blood feud! And that was a challenge, because at different times, there were sympathetic characters in both families.
And we had to play that up, as well as getting down and dirty with the characters that were doing the bad things they did. It was a challenge, because there was no traditional “bad guy,” but I agree with you, Tom Berenger certainly was the most ruthless and amoral of the bunch. And what we got from Kevin Reynolds’ direction was that this was not a simple story at all; it was very complex. And I think it’s the height of irony that Kevin Costner’s character finds God, while Bill Paxton kills himself.
I’m not going to lie, depicting that musically was extremely difficult, but it was made so much easier by the tremendous performances by these actors. If we had a different caliber of actors on that screen, it would have definitely been a tougher affair.
I certainly didn’t envy you this task. With as strong as the acting performances were, I would have simply sat back and let the film exist without music.
That was actually our dilemma! There were many scenes where Tony and I did not put any music in, and then the producer Leslie Greif would come up with really smart ideas here and there, as well as remind us that this was a three-night film event. It ended up being a really good collaborative experience.
You have a long history with the Disney Company, even from very early in your career. Is it ever difficult for you to say “no” to them?
I do have a deep history with Disney. My father worked for Disney for over 40 years, and he was actually a producer for many of their television shows, like “Zorro,” “The Mickey Mouse Club,” as well as a lot of their Sunday night shows. I really grew up in the Disney family and on that lot! I’ve done a lot of work with them for films, the theme parks, animated material, and I love working with them!
But no, I don’t have to say “no” to them. I just hope that they keep calling me, because it’s always a joy working for them. Every time I step onto that lot, I’m taken back immediately to when I was eight years old, with my dad, and we bumped into Walt Disney, and he tousled my hair. That’s how deep it runs!
You have done work in pretty much every genre under the sun, and with very few exceptions, there is an underlying thread of “family” that ties them together. Is this something you seek out, or is it an amazing coincidence?
It’s not something I do consciously, but you’re right, there does seem to be a thread that runs through a lot of the films I’ve done. But no, it’s not really by choice or design, but I guess I just connect with those kinds of things. For instance, “Predators” is a really dark and scary film, but even in that film, there is a strong emotional connection. I’m just delighted that a lot of these films resonate with people and have stood the test of time.
The “Hatfields & McCoys” soundtrack is currently available at iTunes, Amazon, and Amazon Digital.
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