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"Superman Returns" music composer tries to follow in John Williams' footsteps

from musicign.com:

June 27, 2006

Superman Returns' Musical Odyssey
We talk to John Ottman about the film's score.

Following in the footsteps of John Williams is no easy task. As one of the most respected and revered film composers of the modern age, Williams's music has become an indelible part of popular culture. His iconic sounds from films such as Star Wars, Jaws, and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind have been burned into the collective consciousness and earmarked as classics from here to eternity. Williams score for the 1978 film Superman is equally as memorable. So much so that when Bryan Singer signed on to write and direct the film Superman Returns he was quite adamant about building the new film's score around Williams' seminal sounds.

"From Day 1 Bryan said he wouldn't even greenlight the movie if he couldn't use the John Williams' music," reveals Ottman. "Fortunately Warner Bros. owns, so it wasn't an issue for us to re-perform it. That's how important it was to Bryan. I had moments of wanting to evolve the theme a little bit and alter it slightly, even though it would be the same theme, but acknowledging that this is now 2006, but it's still Superman. Bryan was against any modifications at all, even down to the last flute flourish. He wanted that exactly re-performed. It's funny how when you put it in a new context it sort of updates itself. You realize how great it is, especially over the opening titles, it doesn't' feel dated."

s can be expected, this was a rather weighty undertaking for composer John Ottman. While no stranger to film composition--Ottman has penned some pretty high profile scores over the years including Fantastic Four and X2--it was still a somewhat daunting task to follow in Williams' footsteps. "The shadow of John Williams loomed over the whole process," says Ottman. "That was very weighty for me."

Was it tough for Ottman to try and work underneath the aura of the original score? "I think everyone in their own way in this movie, from the actors filling the shoes of past actors to the production designers, to the writers, to the director on down to me, were somewhat intimidated by the past," says Ottman rather candidly. "At some point I had to just forget about it and dive in and do what I do instinctually. Even though it was important for me to preserve the John Williams' theme, I also set out to write my own score as I would with my own sensibilities and my own stylistic approach and then just integrated his music throughout. That way it sounded like a score more tailored to the movie as opposed to being a sound-alike."

Relying on Williams' score as a foundation would at first seem to afford Ottman considerable restraint. Yet the composer didn't look at it that way at all. "No, I didn't feel restricted," says Ottman. "I did have some growing pains early on in the writing process. Normally when I write my own theme, establish my own theme, before writing a film, that's really my impetus and my enthusiasm to go on, because I'm so jazzed about the theme I've written. And then that theme becomes the well from which I draw the ideas that evolve later in the score. So the fact that the theme was already there was, in the beginning, a little bittersweet for me since it wasn't my own."


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