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Danny Elfman On The Making Of Batman
The legendary composer on how the iconic movie score came about

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Danny Elfman On The Making Of Batman


Scoring Batman was my great test of fire. It was rough. In fact, there was a point where I actually had to drop out of the film and come back, while they were working things out. It was only my tenth film and all I'd done to that point was comedies, so I had less experience than anybody should have in that situation and neither the producer, Jon Peters, nor the studio wanted me. The only comment anyone would make at the beginning was that they didn't want me, they wanted John Williams.

I really had to fight to win everybody over, but I still approached it very aggressively. On my third presentation to Peters, Tim Burton got very excited and kept saying, 'Play the march! Play the march!', so I played the piece of music that ended up becoming the Batman theme. Suddenly, Peters leapt out of his chair and started conducting. After months of trying, I finally had him! He went from being totally adversarial to very supportive and from then on he was a great ally for me.

I never expected to have any of my music released as a second soundtrack - I don't think that had ever happened before - but Peters fought hard to get the orchestral score released. Prince's soundtrack was never a hindrance for me. I just knew that there were these three scenes that had songs in them, and whenever that happens I just skip those scenes and get on to what I have to do.

The tone we were aiming for was much darker than superhero films had been up to that point. It's hard to explain to kids now, because the whole genre has gone incredibly dark, but at that time superhero films meant Superman. Batman was just so much more weird than that on so many levels and trying to find a language that would work for that was tricky. But right from the get-go Tim said that we were never, in any way, going to refer to the Adam West television show. Not even a wink or a nod.

  • More: Danny Elfman Career Interview
  • The Greatest Movie Soundtracks - Empire's Music Celebration

    Interview by Phil de Semlyen

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