A Minute With: Composer Alexandre Desplat on the art of scoring film

Wed Feb 5, 2014 8:26am EST
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By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As a teenage cineaste and budding musician Alexandre Desplat had a habit of devouring as many movies as he could in a week around his regimen of schoolwork and flute practice.

But it was not until the French composer, who earned his sixth Oscar nomination last month for the film "Philomena," began discovering the music in the films of Alfred Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut and Francis Ford Coppola did he consider film scoring a real job to which he could aspire.

Now Desplat, 52, is one of the most in-demand composers in the film industry, scoring movies as diverse as mega-blockbusters in the "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" series to dramas like "The King's Speech" and Wes Anderson's comedies.

The composer's work will also be featured in Anderson's oddball murder-mystery "The Grand Budapest Hotel" that will premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival on Thursday and George Clooney's World War Two drama "The Monuments Men," which gets its North American release on Friday.

Desplat, who typically splits his time between Los Angeles and Paris, spoke to Reuters about composing a score for a film that can stand on its own, how Judi Dench helped guide one of his compositions and getting inside of Anderson's head.

Q: What's the first thing you do when you sit down to compose?

A: I don't sit down. Sometimes I just walk, like I'm doing now. Sometimes I'm on a plane or on a train or on my Vespa in Paris. I always tend to think that composing is not playing an instrument, composing is having something in your head that's steaming and it has to go out. It has to become sounds and be written. It's an emotion that you can't repress.

Q: Do you start working with the script or the early cuts of the film you are given?   Continued...

Composer Alexandre Desplat arrives at the 2013 Critic's Choice Awards in Santa Monica, California in this file photo taken January 10, 2013. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok/Files