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The Academy Award winning director talks about his nod to heist films and classic noir

Director Danny Boyle used electronic and retro jazz sounds in the new art-heist film 'Trance.'Director Danny Boyle used electronic and retro jazz sounds in the new art-heist film “Trance.” (Fox Searchlight)

In the films of English director Danny Boyle, music frequently emerges as an important (if unseen) character. The drug-addict drama Trainspotting was fueled by a jam-packed, manic soundtrack of songs by Iggy Pop, Brian Eno and the electronic duo Underworld. He teamed up with Indian composer A.R. Rahman for 127 Hours and the highly successful Slumdog Millionaire, for which Boyle won a Best Director Oscar.

His new movie Trance, starring James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson, pays homage to two beloved genres: the high-tech heist movie and shadowy film noir.

Boyle enlisted a frequent collaborator, Rick Smith of Underworld, to craft dance beats for action sequences, while using pre-existing jazz and French chanson for sequences involving hypnosis and dreams.

Known for using pre-existing songs, Boyle doesn’t use a music supervisor and selects tracks himself. “It’s one of the deepest pleasures for me. It helps shape the film in so many ways, [beyond] just the music. It informs the film completely for me,” he told Soundcheck‘s John Schaefer. “I’m very proud to be able to associate myself with these artists via film.”

He talked with John Schaefer about choosing music for Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Read more the conversation here: http://wny.cc/ZpoOi0

JS: On using “Deep Blue Day” from Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois’ album Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, for the notorious Trainspotting scene involving “the worst toilet in Scotland”:

DB: That album is, to me, one of the greatest atmospheric albums ever. It is just an extraordinary piece of work. I’ve used it multiple times. I used it in a TV series before I moved into films. And I used it so many times, in so many different ways, that eventually Brian Eno wrote to me and said, “I’ve done other things, you know.”

JS: Tell us about a song that you thought would be perfect for a scene, but couldn’t get permission to use.

DB: We tried to get Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” for 28 Days Later. There’s an amazing sequence where [Cillian Murphy’s character, Jim] walks home. London is deserted, apparently apart from this threat, and he finds his way back to his old home where his parents lived. And he finds them in bed, passed away. They passed away peacefully and left a message for him. It’s very moving within this apocalyptic horror.

And her amazing song was [initially] on the soundtrack. And we approached her about it, and she said she didn’t want it to be associated with anything else because she wanted to do something else with it in the near future. So she declined, and I was really sad. [TheatricallyReally sad.

But her decision was a good one – and good things come out of it. And we used a hymn instead which actually had an even greater significance instead, especially for a British audience. You’re trying to suggest the past of the city, and hymns sonically do that. Something that we’re all familiar with through schooling, and so we used “Abide With Me.”

JS: Will there be a third film in the 28 Days Later zombie franchise?

DB: I wish we’d had shares in The Walking Dead, the TV show! There had been a whole zombie movement, and then I think we helped refresh it with 28 Days Later. […] I was very keen for it not to be known as a zombie movie. I had this idea that the threat is much more rage-filled. But it’s become absorbed in the zombie landscape and is referred to constantly as a zombie movie. I have to accept that. [laughs] I’m lucky to be there. There is an idea for a third part, cause we did a 28 Weeks Later, and so the 28 Months Later or whatever it would be called — the third one — there is a plan for that. How realistic it is given the success of something like Walking Dead, I have no idea. Who knows? Fingers crossed.

Mychael Danna joins an impressive collection of composers who have received song and score nominations for the same film; Danna is up for best original song and best original score for his work on “Life of Pi.” Five others have scored double nominations since 2000 and, in all but one case, the nominated composer has won at least one award.

A.R. Rahman has received double nominations twice – for 2009’s “127 Hours” (he lost both) and 2008’s “Slumdog Millionaire.” Howard Shore was a two-time winner for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and Tan Dun achieved the same feat with 2000’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Randy Newman won song but not score for 2001’s “Monsters Inc.” and Elliot Goldenthal did the reverse with 2002’s “Frida.”

“Life of Pi” received 11 nominations Thursday, including best picture, director (Ang Lee) and adapted screenplay (David Magee). On Sunday it is up for Golden Globes in the categories of best drama, director and score.

“The greatest reward of this process is that we worked on a film that pretty much everyone said was unfilmable,” Danna told Billboard. “While we were working on it, we wondered if they were right. It was a very difficult film to make work and believe me, there were a lot of times when we wondered if it would work. To go through that difficulty and turbulence and come out the other side and have it so warmly received – it’s gratifying in a way that’s hard to describe.”


Danna spent more than a year working on the music for the film with Lee, at first discussing the philosophical elements of Yann Martel‘s book. As Danna’s score took shape, he worked on capturing those philosophical elements in the music and, once the final score was recorded, found ways to make them subtle elements of the music.

The orchestra was recorded in Los Angeles on the 20th Century Fox lot, while various other elements were recorded around the world. The first composed piece for the film was the song “Pi’s Lullaby,” which he wrote with the South Indian singer Bombay Jayashri.

“My whole career I have worked with non-Western musicians and different orchestras and ensembles and choirs. I think everything I ever learned about music is in this film,” he said. “We knew (Bombay Jayashri) would capture Pi’s innocence youth. So that was really where the whole process began. As soon as Ang starting talking about what he wanted to convey, she struck me as the ideal voice of what you would want your mother’s voice to sound like if you were a little Indian boy.”

–source from phil gallo for billboard.biz images from apakabardunia.com and liputan6.com

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