Michael Giacchino Grabs the Baton as a Film Score Great

Those act-ending "Lost" stings aside, Michael Giacchino just can’t hit a dischordant note.

No contemporary film score composer is better poised to join the symphonic pantheon of giants than Giacchino, thanks to his harmonious collaborations with the filmmakers at Pixar and Bad Robot. With his full-throttle score for “Cars 2” on the big screen now, the composer gives PopcornBiz a glimpse into his musical method.

On the inspiration for “Cars 2”:

“The first time I saw the film it just immediately reminded me of when I would ride my bike around the neighborhood. I'd listen to different styles of music when I'd ride my bike, depending on what mood I was in. I had this one tape, which I made off of one of my dad's records, that was a Dick Dale album. Surf music is one of those things that always has such energy to it and it has such motion. It's got this odd darkness to it that makes you feel. You can only imagine what those guys must feel like going through those tunnels of waves. When I was riding my bike and listening to that music I always felt like I was doing something dangerous.”

“I hadn't thought of that in years and when I saw the film for the first time I told John Lassetter, 'Look, you're going to think that I'm crazy, but this is what I'm thinking musically for the film.' He just jumped right onboard and said, 'Yeah, that's it – Let’s do it!' He never turned back, and it was just really fun to take a bit of Radiator Springs and mix it into that formula and to have banjo playing during the surf music sections that were appropriate.”

On his recurring collaborations with director Brad Bird (“The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille,” “John Carter”) and director/producer J.J. Abrams (“Alias, “Lost,” “Mission Impossible II,” “Fringe,” “Cloverfield,” “Star Trek,” “Super 8”):

“I always like to compare it to being at home, being ten years old and asking mom, like, 'I'm going to go over to the Birds’ house and play with Brad for a while.' You go over to your friends house and you figure out something fun to do. I feel like I'm doing that now with J. J. 'I'm going to go over to J. J.'s house and play. We're going to make a movie about the kids making a movie.' It's never stopped, and that's what I'm always after, that feeling of creative energy where you're doing just because you want to do it, because you like to do it and not because someone is making you do it or you have to do it.”

On that soundtrack he knows he’ll be autographing well into his golden years:

“’Lost’ kind of became one of those shows that has something about it that's going to kind of live on forever in some strange way.' I'm always thinking, 'Well, I guess that I'll be at the conventions when I'm 70, signing whatever.' But that's really cool – there's something really wonderful about that.”

On struggling to re-invent a “Star Trek” score for the 21st Century:

“The first one was really hard to do, because I was a fan of the original series and, of course, the music that Alexander Courage did, and Jerry Goldsmith has done over the years, and James Horner is really a part of my childhood. It's huge – it's a big thing! So to try and add something to those, what they did, to me felt like an impossible mountain to climb and I had such a difficult time coming up with something that was making me happy.”

“I had literally 30 different themes that I just threw away. I'd come up with them. I'd write them. I'd listen to them and I'd show them to J. J. and we'd both be like, 'Well, it doesn't feel like our movie.' And that's because it wasn't. I was writing what I thought a 'Star Trek' movie would be, but that wasn't our movie. I had a great conversation with Damon Lindeloff who said, 'You know, I think the issue is something that everyone on the crew has struggled with during making this, because it's filled with people who love "Star Trek" and grew up with it and liked it and have respect for it.' He said 'It's not a "Star Trek" movie. It's a story about two guys who meet and become friends. That's what it's about. I think if we just stick with that we're all going to be okay.’"

On his all-time personal favorite film scores:

“I have way too many to narrow it down because the second that I will tell you one I will think of another one. I'll tell you 'Lawrence of Arabia' is one of my absolute favorites, but as I say that I think 'North by Northwest', maybe that's my favorite. Or even the way that Stanley Kubrick put together the music for '2001'. That to me was an iconic way of approaching the scoring of a film. That was amazing. 'The Benny Goodman Story,' because I love Benny Goodman music. 'King Kong' is one of my favorites: Max Steiner – there's a guy that has 300 or 400 film scores to his name all of which are fantastic. 'Gone with the Wind.' 'Star Wars,' of course. 'Close Encounters' is one of my absolute favorite scores.

Contact Us