Ennio Morricone is one of Hollywood's most acclaimed and continually daring composers
Nominated for an Academy Award for "The Hateful Eight" -- would be his first score to win
Has composed music for over 400 films including "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly"
Eighty-seven-year-old maestro Ennio Morricone says it is only when audiences see the pictures on screen entwine with his music that he can finally be excited by what he has created.
The legendary Italian composer doesn’t write music for awards juries, he says, but he admits he would be “very, very happy” if he was honored at last with a crowning Academy Award for Best Original Score.
Morricone – best known internationally as the composer behind the instantly recognizable melodies that illuminate epochal Westerns “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and “Once Upon a Time in the West” – is nominated at the awards this Sunday 28 February. His music for Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” provides his sixth nomination, but the Italian master has never won.
For many in the business – he can count filmmakers Brian De Palma, Terrence Malick, Roman Polanski and Bernardo Bertolucci among his admirers – this is one of the Academy’s most egregious oversights.
Morricone, who is today unveiling a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, estimates he has written music for between 400 and 500 films. He reminds us that the Westerns he is best known for, account for only a small minority alongside cinematic classics including “The Untouchables” and “Cinema Paradiso.”
The Rome-born composer arguably came closest to a win in 1986 when his original soundtrack for “The Mission” lost in controversial circumstances (losing to a jazz arrangement that critics claim predated the film.) Morricone’s score has since topped a Variety poll of the greatest soundtrack ever written.
An Academy Honorary Award in 2007, recognizing his lifetime’s achievement, appeared to be acknowledgment that Morricone ought not be without a statuette. But the legendary composer still awaits the possibility of a win in the Awards’ Best Original Soundtrack category.
In an interview with CNN filmed this month as he rehearsed with a full orchestra for a concert of his music at the O2 Arena in London, Morricone shared some lessons from his 60 years in music…
On his score for The Hateful Eight: “I never considered this film a western, I thought it was an adventure film set in a specific time period, so I went with that.”
On Tarantino’s brief: “He told me nothing. He asked me to write 10 minutes’ worth of music about ‘snow’ and that’s it… Then I thought 10 minutes would not be enough for a film – I didn’t want to take advantage of this new offer, so I wrote half an hour of original music instead.”
On translating mental melodies to finished film: “I can’t be enthusiastic as soon as I write something on the music sheet. The music sheet is only the beginning: it has to be listened to, played by the instruments and then heard by the director but, most importantly, it has to be listened to by the public.”
On treating music correctly on film: “Music needs room to breathe. In music what is very important is temporality of space and length, based on the breathing space the director gives the music within the film, by separating the music from various elements of reality: like noises, dialogues… That’s how you treat music properly, but it doesn’t always happen this way. Music if often blamed, but it’s not its fault.”
On what it takes: “It takes experience, talent and study… studying the history of musical composition over the centuries is very, very important.”
And if he wins? “I will simply accept the Oscar, say thank you and that’s it – and of course, I’ll be very, very happy.