Michael Giacchino On Coming Home To Write Music For 'Jurassic World'
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Michael Giacchino is one of the most successful and in-demand composers in Hollywood. He has written the scores for the TV series "Lost," the last two "Star Trek" movies, "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille." In 2010, he won an Oscar for his score for "Up," and this summer, three blockbuster films feature his music. One of them has extra significance for the composer, as Tim Greiving explains.
(SOUNDBITE OF "TOMORROWLAND" SCORE)
TIM GREIVING, BYLINE: You'll know Michael Giacchino's music if you see the futuristic "Tomorrowland."
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GREIVING: Or the animated film about the emotions living inside a little girl, "Inside Out."
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GREIVING: Or the return to the island of resurrected dinosaurs, "Jurassic World."
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GREIVING: Giacchino didn't always know he wanted to compose music for the movies, but he always knew he was destined to spend his life inside them.
MICHAEL GIACCHINO: I was just obsessed with film-making. There was something just about the idea of making films that was a combination of almost every art form you can imagine.
GREIVING: Giacchino grew up in Edgewater, N.J., far from Hollywood, but he spent hours and hours inside movie theaters. And one director's work stood above the rest - Steven Spielberg's.
GIACCHINO: He was my first film school teacher, really, unbeknownst to him. When I wasn't able to get myself to a theater to rewatch "E.T." for the hundredth time - or "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" - the only way to relieve those movies was to listen to the soundtrack. The other thing I would do is I would sneak tape recorders into the movie theaters, and I would record all my favorite movies. I still have all of those cassettes, and I would just listen to "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" over and over and over.
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HARRISON FORD: (As Indiana Jones) Meet me at Omar's. Be ready for me. I'm going after that truck.
JOHN RHYS-DAVIES: (As Sallah) How?
FORD: (As Indiana Jones) I don't know. I'm making this up as I go.
GREIVING: Giacchino decided he wanted to compose music for film while in college. But he wound up working in the publicity department at Disney, which took him out to Los Angeles and eventually to an assistant producer job at Disney Interactive.
GIACCHINO: And because I knew about music, they would always give me - all right, here's all the demo CDs that came in. See if you like any of these. We've got to hire someone to do the music for this game. And eventually I just said, well, how about if I just write the music. And they're like, well, can you set up a music studio? And I said, sure, I can do that.
GREIVING: A few years later, he ended up at DreamWorks Interactive, where he continued plugging away as a video game producer. In 1997, DreamWorks was making a "Lost World" game for the PlayStation while Steven Spielberg was shooting the movie. One day, Giacchino got a phone call.
GIACCHINO: Patrick Gilmore, the game's producer, called me and said, hey, you know, we've got this meeting. Steven's coming tomorrow. Can you write a piece of music that we could just put behind the animation reel that we're going to show him? I was like all right, sure.
GREIVING: He wrote it that night, handed it in the next morning and went back to his office. Then he got another phone call.
GIACCHINO: And it was Patrick, and he said, hey, could you come down? Stephen would like to talk to you. My head was elsewhere, and I remember saying Stephen who? And he said was like Steven Spielberg - remember, our boss?
GREIVING: Giacchino had no idea what Spielberg would say when they shook hands.
GIACCHINO: What he asked me was, so when are we recording this with a live orchestra? And the CEO and the CFO on either side of him, weeks before having said, no, we're never going to do anything with a live orchestra, were suddenly then saying, well, I think Michael's putting a budget together for that right now, aren't you, Michael? And I was like, yes, I am. And he said great 'cause it has to be a live orchestra.
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GREIVING: "The Lost World" became the first console game to have music played by a real orchestra. That led to the "Medal Of Honor" game series. A young writer-producer named J.J. Abrams played those games and liked the music so much that he contacted Giacchino about scoring the TV show "Alias."
J.J. ABRAMS: Michael's music was the kind of music that I would find myself listening to in headphones when I was writing. And it just felt like clearly whoever was writing this music was as obsessed with the scores that I was familiar with growing up.
GREIVING: After "Alias," Abrams asked Giacchino to score the TV series "Lost" and then all of his movies, including "Mission Impossible III," "Super 8" and the massively successful resurrection of "Star Trek."
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ABRAMS: I think the thing that makes his music so emotional and so relatable and potent is because he has a big heart. He's got a great sense of humor. He's an incredibly sweet guy, and his talent is immeasurably connected to his passion, his caring, his kindness. And while he can write incredibly intense and dark stuff, too, what I love about Michael is that it all comes from a sense of humanity and humor.
GREIVING: A sensibility that allows Michael Giacchino to conjure "The Incredibles" or "Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes" or this summer's "Inside Out." But it always comes back to dinosaurs, so when he was asked to score "Jurassic World," it was a no-brainer.
GIACCHINO: It was everything that sort of launched me into this insane business. I was like yes, absolutely. It was just like coming home in this weird strange way.
GREIVING: And it all started with a phone call, and to this day, Michael Giacchino wonders.
GIACCHINO: What would have happened if I had gotten a flat tire that day? (Laughter).
GREIVING: For NPR News, I'm Tim Greiving in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.