Composer Spotlight: Clint Mansell
British musician Clint Mansell was cut from a different cloth than your normal film composer. He didn’t attend a prestigious music conservatory or grow up playing in an orchestra, but instead cut his teeth in rock bands starting when he was 18. He went on to form the alt-rock English band Pop Will Eat Itself in 1986 and served as the lead singer until they disbanded in 1996. After that, he moved to New York to begin work on a solo project, only to find himself in a creative slump. Then he met director Darren Aronofsky.
Introduced by a friend of a friend, the two hit it off with their mutual distaste for current film scoring. Clint explains, “We bonded over a shared dislike of modern film music. The film music that I didn’t like then is the same film music that I don’t like now. It’s just wallpaper – it’s bulls***. Just look at something like Paris, Texas. Wim Wenders created space in the film for the music and people rarely do that anymore. We’d go back to something like John Carpenter’s Halloween, which is just an amazing piece of music.” This connection led to him being asked to write some music for Darren’s first film, Pi.
Originally, he was brought on only to do the title music, with the rest of the score being comprised of pre-existing electronic music. But, Mansell’s role expanded as they were unable to secure licenses to various artists and required him to write more cues. “I wrote a piece on spec from reading the script and everybody loved that. Then, because the film was totally independent and he didn’t have any industry backing, it was very difficult to get those pieces that he wanted. He didn’t have the money to license them. So every time a piece fell out I had to write something to replace it.” The film was well received, but it would be their next collaboration that really propelled him into history.
Requiem for a Dream, a brutally depressing film that explores the downfall of four people ruined by drug addiction, created the framework for Mansell to create a truly unique score using a blend of electronics and the acclaimed Kronos Quartet string quartet. The film had little widespread impact when it was originally released due its graphic and intense depictions, but the art houses loved it and it quickly developed a cult following once it hit the home market.
The hypnotic and repetitive main theme Lux Aeterna was a hit with audiences and went on to be reused in many other facets throughout Hollywood. Clint had this to say about it: “That piece of music has really just taken on a life of its own, it’s like having a kid and watching it go off. It just sort of connected with people in a way that I certainly can’t replicate and don’t know why it did what it did or how it did what it did, because if I did I’d obviously be doing it constantly. It just had something that people connect to.” The theme was even re-orchestrated and recorded for full orchestra with choir to be used specifically in trailers for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. This version is known as Requiem for a Tower.
From here, the offers started pouring in for Mansell as a film composer. He branched out working with many other directors on projects like Sahara, Doom, Stoker, Moon, Filth and High-Rise, but his biggest successes were still with Aronofsky. Their collaborations on The Fountain, The Wrestler, Black Swan and Noah proved fruitful as they elevated each other with every project. He also took on musical duties for the video game Mass Effect 3 in 2012. Although the product turned out well, he has stated that it was not the best experience and he did not return to do the next installment.
Ghost In the Shell
Now, Clint will be providing the score for Paramount’s live-action remake of the anime classic Ghost In the Shell. The technocratic dystopian landscape seems the perfect backdrop for his hybrid style of dark electronic/orchestral musings. But recently there was the addition of a second composer – Lorne Balfe. Often other composers are brought in to “fix” a score if it’s not testing well. Though there hasn’t been any reason given for Lorne’s late addition. Mr. Balfe does have quite the resume, frequently working as part of Hans Zimmer’s team and most recently flying solo as composer for The LEGO Batman Movie. This may all stem from a scheduling conflict since Clint does have three movies currently in post-production or the studio may not have been happy with parts of the score and wanted to bring in someone to smooth it out. Either way, we’ll find out on March 31st whether it works or not.