Interview with Alexandre Desplat

Alexandre Desplat is a French film composer that has had one heck of busy year in 2010.  Not only taking over the final two films in the “Harry Potter” franchise.  Alexandre also composed this fall’s “The King’s Speech”, as well as “Tamara Drewe” and “The Ghost Writer”.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Alexandre about working with “Harry Potter” and his real passion for what he does.

Click here to purchase Alexandre’s scores

Mike Gencarelli: Did you feel any pressure stepping into the established franchise of “Harry Potter”?
Alexandre Desplat: Of course I did. Yes.  I am not a super man.  When you are following one of the masters like John Williams and you are taking over a franchise, you have to be humble and yes a bit worried.  You want to make sure you are going to work harder than ever to make the right score and make it shine, as it should be shining.  So yes, it was a lot of pressure but it was me putting on the pressure.  The producers and the director were very kind and supportive.  It is such a global event it spans across countries and you need to give as much as you can.

MG: When scoring “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”, did you refer back to the six prior scores to get any inspiration?
AD: No.  I tend to avoid these kind of things.  On “New Moon”, I didn’t listen to the score for “Twilight”.  I try to keep myself as fresh as I can.  I knew the earlier scores from having seen the “Harry Potter” films.  I knew themes and and the energy that John Williams had conveyed.  From that, I knew where I wanted to go with the film.

MG: How long did it take to complete your score for “Part 1” and when do you start work on “Part 2”?
AD: The first one took me all together three months both writing and recording. I am starting “Part 2” next month.

MG: What is your favorite track on “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”?
AD: I think ‘Oblivate’, which is the first track.  I think it would be one of my favorites, yes.

MG: Besides “Harry Potter”, you also scored the film “The King’s Speech”, what was your inspiration while working on it?
AD: That is a movie that I really cherish.  It is so moving, subtle, delicate and strong.  It is a movie about friendship, which is really rare.  You see a lot of love stories and romantic comedies.  But a story about a friendship between two men is not so common.  The director, Tom Hooper did a great job there.  In the film, the king has this speech impediment, he suffers and can’t express himself.  Therefore the music has to go beyond and bring out emotions and express what he can’t express.  You have to replace the world with music and try to have the audience feel how difficult it is for him to express himself.

MG: Do you think you will be competing with yourself come award season?
AD: I am happy that I have at least three good scores or have done at least three good movies this year.  I would be satisfied if only one get recognized for the music [laughs].  It is great that two or three of them have been noticed already.  I think “The King’s Speech” is really a great one because it is not a franchise.  It is a different object.  It is not a big production but still it looks fantastic.  Everyone on this film really tried to bring even more emotion and depth.  I would think that “The King’s Speech” might be the one to get the most notice.  It is a new object compared to just new “Harry Potter” film.

MG: Do you enjoy working on original films more than franchises?
AD: It is just a different kind of energy.  On a more indie film like “The King’s Speech”, you have to think differently.  The way you play specifically because your work with the orchestra is not a huge epic.  It is like racing on a sailboat or going a cruise ship.  The franchise is a huge cruise ship and it is a long journey.  The other one is a fast race with a little boat and you still have to be very competent.  You can’t really compare but you just bring a different energy to the game.

MG: “Fantastic Mr. Fox” was one of my favorite scores of 2009, tell us about working on that film?
AD: Again, it is not a huge epic film.  Wes Anderson likes to try things that have not been tried before.  He was actually in Paris at the time and was only a block away from my studio.  We would meet every morning, scratch our heads and try and figure out what we could use.  I think the idea was to have this minimal orchestra.  I thought lets try and use little instruments and stay away from a huge orchestra.  We used a lot of the mandolin and all these other miniature instruments.  We wanted it to feel really gentle, intimate, cozy, sweet and fun.  We have a brass section but it is a very small brass section.  Our string section is only one of each.  That is it.  We created something very different.  Not all projects allow you to play that way.  We really enjoyed playing together on this project.  Obviously it shows that people, like yourself, can feel that the score was special and different. We tried to challenge ourselves to make something really different.

MG: What has been your most challenging project to work on?
AD: Well definitely “Harry Potter” was one.  “The Golden Compass” was one.  They were the two big epic scores that I have done recently.  “The Ghost Writer” was a very tough one also because Roman Polanski was not present at the time.  Roman Polanski’s filmography is so outstanding.  His music in his films are so special, strong and so smart.  One of my favorite scores of all time is “Chinatown” from Jerry Goldsmith.  It was challenging.  When I started working with Roman on this film, I knew it was a dangerous path.  I knew I had to be bloody good [laughs].  He has great ears and knows exactly what he wants done.  He was one of the greatest directors I have worked with.  He had us push ourselves over our limits and helped us find something special and different.  He pushes you but also wants you to surprise him and bring something he hasn’t thought about.  It was a great experience for me.

MG: What other projects are you working on?
AD: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is the next projects that is signed for me that I can talk about.  The other ones I have are still in the air.

Click here to purchase Alexandre’s scores

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2 Replies to “Interview with Alexandre Desplat”

  1. He is superb. It is also a privilege that he is the son of a dear friend. His talent is without equal at this time. Congrats on getting this inteview.

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