James Newton Howard

Q: I’m curious as to your process with sequels because I imagine it’s quite tricky, and you’ve mentioned Fantastic Beasts three – how would you decide what to take and what’s new, because I imagine it’s not as simple as just matching themes to new people or locations. So, is your spotting process different? How does that work?

“That’s a good question because I’m a believer that structure in a score, and what I mean by structure, where do you use a theme, where do you use a theme in a different way, where are you going to be active, and where do you want to go against the grain and not be active and tell the story in a more subversive kind of way. But in the case of a sequel like Fantastic Beasts, when I first started those movies, I hadn’t been in a position where I had to audition for a movie for many years, but when I heard they were gonna do that I submitted a tonne of my work to David Yates and I was lucky to get the job. But, the number one thing I wanted to do was get rid of John Williams’ theme and have my theme (laughing), and I love John Williams, he is like the greatest who ever did it, he would understand that, that in the first one we had a number of Hedwig’s themes, which is, I mean, I think it’s one of the greatest themes that he ever wrote because of its complexity emotionally and just, tonally. It’s gothic, it’s funny, it’s witty, it’s scary, it’s beautiful. But, you know, I wanted this franchise to be me. So, I laboured, laboured, laboured, and finally got to the point where one of these big sequences where they go to the MACUSA, which is the place where all the magical things officially happen, they were using a big version of Hedwig’s theme and I finally won and they used my stuff and now Hedwig’s theme is pretty much out the door. But I’m saying that because themes are really important so when I do the third one I’m bringing back themes and I’m stating the themes that were successful in the first two more often than I did before because people, at least the film-makers that I’m with, and I’m presuming the community at large, will have some amount of recognition of the themes a third time around, and that becomes a valuable tool in your storytelling. The director, David Yates, has been very happy to have some scenes be almost direct moments from the first movies but I would say eighty percent of it is all new, but some things just work and the tone was really special, and it really worked and we want to repeat that again.
And I’ve also discovered that there were themes that the music editor puts in that I’ve forgotten about and I go, ‘wow, that’s good, let’s do that here’, you know, so a good music editor is very helpful too and when you’re doing a sequel because they will temp it up with some of the stuff before and pick your way like any other thing.”

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