STARDUST INTERVIEW with COMPOSER ILAN ESHKERI
Q) Can you tell us how you first became involved with "Stardust?"
A) Matthew came to talk to me about it 2 years ago when he was writing the script. We sat at the piano and played 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.' He asked me if there was a way in which we could make it filmic. I did something there and then that became Stardust's first motif. So, disguised versions of 'Twinkle' are woven into the fabric of the score, most often when a character says the word 'star.'
Q) Going into the project, did you familiarize yourself with the graphic novel before you were exposed to the movie itself?
A) Yes, I read the script first, then I read the graphic novel and even got Neil and Charles to sign my copy. I've always been a big fan of comics and graphic novels, so to meet and work with the guys who brought us Stardust was very exciting. I discussed the characters, the world and the style of 'Stardust' with them which really helped me to find the emotional core. I also played them early sketches of the music which we talked about.
Even before those conversations, the book was an enormous inspiration. In fact, the music for the montage on the flying pirate ship was inspired by Charles' painting of the ship appearing out of the clouds even before the scene was shot!
Q) What can you tell us about the music you created for the film?
A) It was recorded with a large orchestra; 50 strings, double ww, 6 hrns, 2 tmpts, 4 trmbns, tuba, timp, 2 perc, harp, celeste, and a female choir. There were a lot of drum overdubs - toms and bass drums were performed by the brilliant Scott Shields who also played some electric guitar. There was chanting and whispering and some synth textures used in the background for the witches. Not a single sample was used in the score. I'm determined to perform everything live; a performance has soul and emotion. If music is the emotional core of the film, then music, animated by an outstanding performance is essential.
The score was produced by Steve McLaughlin. It seems that score producers are becoming more popular in film scoring, which is great for composers and studios and everybody else involved in the process. It removes a lot of pressure from the composer. It's very hard to be creative when you have a lot of stress and problems on your mind and the stress of making a score is inevitable because of the time constraints, the amount of people involved and the amount of money being spent. Steve helps me deal with every aspect of the score aside from actual composition, and even then I find that he is the most helpful person to bounce ideas off.
Q) How interesting and exciting was it for you to be able to compose a score for a film that featured so many vibrant images and themes?
A) It was amazing! Really, as a film composer, I can't think of a better job. Something like this soaks up music and you can be as bold as you want and write as many melodies as you want and it never overpowers the picture. This also meant I could listen to large orchestral classical music and take inspiration from there.
There are 2 pieces of classical music in the score, Offenbach's 'Can Can' and Dvorak's 'Dance No.6,' which is in the middle of the pirate montage when Tristan is dancing with Yvaine. There are other classical music references - one of my favorites is the first part of the Inn sequence. It's adapted from Bach's 2nd prelude in C minor. I like the idea of finding opportunities to pay homage to an old master... and Bach in many ways is my favorite. There is always something new to learn by listening to his music. I'm proud of how I reworked his prelude for the scene. There are other musical things to discover in the score, but i won't give them all away now.
Q) During the scoring process, how closely did the director (Matthew Vaughn) work with you as you created the music? Was it a healthy collaboration?
A) Matthew loves music and the process of scoring. On both of his films, he could not have been any more involved in the score. The process is very collaborative to the extent that he even has a co-write credit on one of the cues. Matthew's team is close and there is a strong sense of 'we're all making a movie together.' It makes the whole experience of being on the project very rewarding.
Q) What type of timeline were you provided with to come up with the score?
A) I first started talking to Matthew about the score 2 years ago at script stage. The pirate ship theme and montage, as well as Septimus' riding music, were written on location during the summer of 2006. It was very inspiring to be on set and have a dialogue with the actors and other departments. Full time work on the score started in February 2007 and was completed in May 2007
Q) Do you know if there is a soundtrack release slated for "Stardust" and if there is, will the majority of it feature your work?
A) Yes there is a soundtrack release on Decca and is in stores from September 11th. It is currently available on iTunes. It is all my work apart from the last cue in the film 'Epilogue,' which was composed by 'Take That' and arranged by me. That cue is based on the chords of their song 'Rule the World,' which runs through the end titles and is a really fantastic song.
Q) Was this your first time working on a fantasy/science fiction film in your career? Will you look for more opportunities such as this in the future?
A) Yes it was, and i really enjoyed it, so it would be great to do more pictures like this.
.Q) What can you tell us about your non-film related projects that you are also involved with?
A) I'm currently working with Annie Lennox on a BBC Radio 2 broadcast. We are doing a few songs with a 50 piece orchestra and her band. Some new stuff from her album and some of the old classics like 'Here Comes The Rain Again' and 'Sweet Dreams'... the concert is tonight (wish me luck!) and is broadcast on Saturday 25th August. I'm very excited, Annie is a truly incredible and inspiring person to work with.
Recently I also worked on a couple of songs for David Gilmour's album 'On an Island.'
Q) As we wrap up, do you have any future scoring assignments lined up that you can share with us?
A) Well, I'm looking forward to starting work with Matthew on 'Thor.' The script is really fantastic - I just got a stack of comic books and I'm currently reading all the early stuff! Anyway, and with a bit of luck, there will be some other projects to look out for before the release of 'Thor.'
Thanks for the interview and I hope you enjoy Stardust when you get to see it.