In this Associated Press interview, Jason (quite rightly) addresses the Arnold question by bringing up Sean Connery and Daniel Craig both being awesome James Bonds, and Jack Nicholson & Heath Ledger being fantastic Jokers, which is exactly the sort of thing people should keep in mind:
After the break we have more interviews, including a tantalizing glimpse of the best poster for this film I’ve seen yet. But the only way forward is through the gates of the silver click…
The Huffington Post has an interview with Tyler Bates, where discussion of his work on Conan naturally arises. Here are the parts relevant to Conan, but the interview is fairly lengthy and detailed, and offers some intriguing insight into his creative process:
Mike Ragogna: Tyler, you composed the music for the new 3D movie Conan The Barbarian. Just how humongous was the orchestra this time out?
Tyler Bates: (laughs) Well, we got creative with layering the orchestra, probably due to some of the restrictions on our resources, but it sounds pretty huge. That comes from years of making the most of what I have to work with in a given situation. I would say the first one I really had to stretch production value was 300–the music budget was probably 1/10th of what they spent on Troy. So, we recorded that in three days. The way you do it is first off, you have to have a great team and you have to come in extremely prepared and understand what your objective is. Fortunately, Tim Williams, who has worked with me for a long time, is really fantastic at helping prepare for that, he’s my orchestrator and talent.
MR: Did you conduct?
TB: No, he conducts, I prefer to be in the booth, and his conducting career really started with me also.
MR: How so?
TB: We used to be next-door neighbors, we literally met at the end of the driveway eight or nine years ago. Tim is a fantastic conductor as well as orchestrator, and the reason I like to be in the booth is because I’m listening to the music in a different way. It’s a much more critical listening environment at least for me. I can hear intonation and timing and expression, everything is so emotional when you’re out with the orchestra. Sometimes, those things can be overlooked. Also, I like to be in the booth with the director and the producers, in case there are any questions or any suggestions or thoughts, that way I can address those immediately.
MR: How much layering of additional synths and extra percussion were added, as opposed to just the recording of the orchestra for the three days?
TB: We recorded no orchestral percussion as far as our orchestra sessions are concerned. All of the percussion is stuff that was programmed or played by Brian Cuccia, and Greg Ellis did some of the work. He’s gone back many years with me, especially on 300. He did a big job there, but Brian works with me every day, so we set up his studio with timpani and kettledrums and a ton of ethnic percussion. He spent 24 days consecutively recording that stuff, and it was a pretty heavy load for him, but he did a fabulous job. There was so much happening at the eleventh hour, it took all of our resources to make it happen.
MR: Your resume is pretty phenomenal, you have 300, The Stand, Badass, and the Rob Zombie movies. How did you approach Conan differently then you did the more horror films or more dramatic movies?
TB: One of the most important aspects of the Conan film and the music is emotion, theme, and soul. It has to be soulful. I consider The Devil’s Rejects to be soulful even though it’s one of the most disturbing scores I’ve ever worked on. Actually, with Conan, it gave me an opportunity to work with a couple of themes throughout the film and more motifs than I have really done. The score is fairly brutal if you’ve heard the majority of it, very percussive, and very aggressive on the strings. But there are more emotional and epic moments.
MR: A composition like “Egg Race,” for example.
TB: (laughs) These titles, man, so eloquent aren’t they? Overall, the sound of the score is supposed to feel primal, but again, epic in scale. And what I wanted to do was instead of go right to the sword and sandals sound–some of which was established in 300–I wanted to create a time period that felt long ago and wasn’t too specific, but at the same time, have a contemporary edge to the music. I think we got there pretty well. There are just so many different aspects of what the music is and the creation of the music for this movie.
MR: Were there any challenging pieces for this? Like, they gave you footage and you weren’t sure what you were going to put to it?
TB: I think Marcus Nispel really shoots great stuff, so there was nothing that was really a technical challenge as much as it was a challenge to do something that was complimentary to the film or helped take it to another level. I never sit down in front of any picture and say, “I got this,” I always feel like I will never know what the hell I’m going to do next. I try to block out the whole lore of Conan, all of the expectations of the hardcore fans, the amazing music that Basil Poledouris did in the past. The only way I could do a good job is to put all of that out of my mind and treat this like it’s a new film without that history.
MR: Obviously, you’re overwriting because scenes have been edited. How is it for a composer who writes music for a scene that goes from A-Z, then they take out P, Q, and R. How do you truncate all of that?
TB: That’s actually a really difficult challenge. Honestly, it’s not as much of a problem in action oriented movies because it’s more frenetic. What happens that creates an issue is when a few frames are added here or there to a scene–especially if it’s a very rhythmically oriented piece because you have to still hit your cuts–and it doesn’t really make musical sense. It’s all very difficult to conform your music once you feel it and written it a certain way. There’s definitely a scene in Conan where I managed to get it back. It’s where Conan is born on the battlefield and we go into the first Conan theme and the theme was originally quite a bit longer. I wrote the first piece in about a day. And to adjust the piece when I got the new cut took me about two and a half days because I was trying to maintain the emotion. Any of those adagios are very difficult to truncate, because one chord is just held long enough to evoke the emotion before changing to the next. When you speed up the sequence of those chords, especially if they are in a format that requires one leading to the next, there is some sort of diatonic structure and you’re in a pinch.
MR: What would you say are the major differences between Conan and some of your other scores?
TB: I learn from everything I do and I try and do a better job on every next movie. From my experiences, there is some correlation between 300 and Conan–of course, 300 was one of the films Marcus Nispel discussed with me when he hired me. He was very interested in how I integrated the non-organic matter with the orchestra and the choir. We didn’t do as much of that on this because this movie ended up feeling more natural to me. 300 was, especially at the time it came out, a very hyper-stylized movie visually. Some of the cutting…Zach has done a lot of the slow-mo action into ramped speed events, so that elicited more hyper-realistic statements, whereas this movie plays more in a linear fashion as 300 is. That presents its own challenges. When you’re playing action in the background and there’s a quiet narrative on top of it, there has to be some duality to the music that services both aspects and both dynamics. It ultimately gave us a license to do a lot of different things. I started writing 300 a year and half before the movie was made, so they showed me the comic book and we started developing ideas from the beginning. Zach knew he wanted a big choir, he knew he wanted rock ‘n’ roll and he got me figuring it out early on.
MR: What are you predicting will come first–Conan The Barbian 2 or another Rob Zombie movie?
TB: Bring them on. I always love the opportunity to work with Rob. I know he’s about ready to get started on something else in the fall when he’s done touring. Hopefully, Rob and I will get back out at the beginning of next year.
Oman Tribune talked with Rose McGowan on the phone about various subjects, including her time in the makeup chair, character development and filming for Conan:
McGowan is on the phone to talk about Conan the Barbarian. Set for release on Aug. 19 and based on the pulp-fiction saga created by Robert E. Howard, the film follows the eponymous hero (Jason Momoa) as he seeks vengeance against Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), the power-mad villain who killed his father. McGowan plays the villainess Marique, a half-human/half-witch who also happens to be Zym’s approval-seeking daughter.
“I think Marique absolutely cares more about winning the approval of her father (than killing Conan),” McGowan says. “The studio was really nervous. They cut down some moments that shaped the relationship of the characters. She really quite inappropriately loves her father, and he’s obsessed with resurrecting his dead wife. So in some ways that’s really cool. It gives it more pathos than the simple story of the guy who wants all the power or wants to kill Conan so he can have all the power in the world and blah, blah, blah, that kind of thing.
“He’s just really terribly distraught over his dead wife and he wants to resurrect her,” the actress says, “and I’m jealous of my dead mother. And for that I kill.”
McGowan sports a typically exotic, otherworldly look in Conan the Barbarian, from her costume and hair to her skin and talon-spiked fingers. Achieving that look required as long as six hours daily in a makeup chair.
Sure, it got draining, McGowan admits, but it was worth the time spent.
“If anybody else was tired, I was like, ‘Listen, chump, why don’t you get here at 2 in the morning and we’ll talk about tired, OK?,”‘ she says, laughing. “It was interesting, because a lot of people sleep during the makeup process, and I couldn’t, because it was so critical that I not move a muscle.
‘’‘M.T.’ has always been my nickname in makeup chairs,’’ McGowan adds, “because I’m a moving target. I’m always turning my head and seeing what’s going on. I have a really hard time sitting still. I just get so bored and I don’t want to be in the chair anymore. But I was very impressed with (makeup supervisor) Scott Wheeler. Scott is immensely talented, and his team had some people from Bulgaria and some from the States, and they were all so amazing.
“I owed it to them to sit in the chair,” she concludes, “and I wanted to look as good as possible as Marique. I wanted her to look flawless. And I think she’s quite majestic in her own way.”
Conan the Barbarian was shot in Bulgaria, with much of the filming done outdoors, on location. McGowan credits German director Marcus Nispel for masterfully juggling the location challenges, a huge cast, nonstop action, loads of FX, a largely Bulgarian crew and …
“A lot of producers and that (crazy) accent,” McGowan says, laughing again. “You know, Marcus was there with his orange pants and his bucket hat and this ridiculously long beard that he refused to shave while he was doing the movie. So pretty much his neck had gray beard hair shooting sideways. He refused to shave it while he was filming. And he always had a smile on his face, no matter what.
And as a little extra, Rose McGowan explicates to Movieweb why she turned down Red Sonja:
Finally, courtesy of the Robert E. Howard Forums’ thundarr and CMB commentator poirot (and cleaned up a bit by yours truly), the best – by FAR – poster for the upcoming Conan film I’ve seen yet, which looks like a John Buscema design brought to life. Man, what I wouldn’t give for a clear 300dpi copy of this poster…
Look at it. Isn’t that just magnificent? I think even the staunchest Arnold fan would be forced to admit Jason looks every inch the bronzed giant borne of Robert E. Howard’s imagination.