Billboard caught up with Justice League composer Danny Elfman, who will receive the Max Steiner Film Music Achievement Award at the 10th annual Hollywood in Vienna festival tomorrow.
Elfman spoke a lot about his work on Justice League, including incorporating classic themes into his score… like John Williams’ Superman theme. Check out the Justice League portion of the new interview below.
You’ve just been in London recording the score for Justice League. It’s been 28 years since you scored Batman. What was it like going back into the DC universe?
It was great. It was like I never left because I’m using the same thematic material that I used back then. It never actually went away [Laughs.] It just was great fun.
There are a few little fan moments. I instated a moment of the Wonder Woman theme that Hans Zimmer did for Batman Vs. Superman, but I also had two minutes where I had the pleasure of saying, “Let’s do John Williams’ Superman.” and that for me was heaven, because now I have a melody to twist, and I’m using it in an actually very dark way, in a dark moment. It’s the kind of thing that some fans will notice. Some won’t. It’s a moment where we’re really not sure whose side he’s on.
The people at DC are starting to understand we’ve got these iconic bits from our past and that’s part of us, that’s part of our heritage — we shouldn’t run away from that. Contemporary thinking is, every time they reboot something, you have to start completely from scratch — which, of course, audiences will tell us again and again, is bullshit. Because the single-most surviving and loved theme in the world is Star Wars, which they had the good sense to not dump for the reboots. And every time it comes back, the audience goes crazy.
Did you write new themes for such characters as Flash and Aquaman?
I created very simple motifs. There are so many themes, you can’t just do a big theme for everything. So i created a motif for Flash, for Aquaman and Cyborg — but they’re very simple things, and [DC] understood. I said, “These things may never be used again, but I’m giving you all the components, should you wish to have things to build on.” So they either will or they won’t, but that’s how I approach a project like this. You have to take the attitude that this is the beginning of a mythology and it all matters, it all comes to fruition, and with any luck they will.
I loved the people I worked with, they were wonderful. The DC guys were great. I kept talking about the DNA of John Williams in this other theme — using the DNA of Batman in these other variations, which were not the Batman theme — but it all derives from that… Musical themes are like genes, you carry the DNA along and it creates these subtle connections which are perceived on an unconscious level. It’s funny because I’m terrible at puzzles, but I love musical puzzles. It’s a different part of my brain.
Elfman also spoke about working with Justice League director Joss Whedon, who he worked with previously on Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Why do you love working with [Joss Whedon]?
It was the same as when I worked with him on Ultron. He appreciates melodies and pieces. He’s like, “Oh, you’ve given it identity here!” There was a moment where the Batmobile shoots out of a thing and he goes, “Go batshit crazy here! Batman the shit out of it!” When I’m using the Batman theme, I’m using the melodic sense of it, I’m wasn’t doing full-on Batman, and there’s a moment when he says, “No, right here, Full on!”