Interview: Hans Zimmer Talks About the Music of ‘Man of Steel’

By June 5, 2013
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[Editor’s note: Last Friday, I visited the Warner Bros. studio lot in Burbank to attend the press junket for their upcoming Superman film Man of Steel. (We’re not allowed to talk about the movie until June 10th, so expect my full review on GeekNation then.) The press conference ran for just under an hour, and because there was so much said about the movie, I’ve decided to break up our coverage into four or five separate posts over the next couple of days.]

John Williams’ iconic score for Superman: The Movie is as ingrained into popular culture as the comic book character himself. It’s triumphant, soaring, and filled with wonder and excitement, so naturally audiences were curious about whether or not director Zack Snyder would utilize Williams’ score in his take on Superman, Man of Steel. He opted to hire Hans Zimmer (another benefit of working with producer Christopher Nolan, considering Zimmer has worked with Nolan a bunch of times and won an Oscar for his Inception score), and the director spoke at a recent press day about his reasons for not using the Williams music and letting Hans work some magic instead:

“We knew that music was out there and it’s a strong piece of music. But because our philosophy of course was that we wanted to act like no films had ever been made – we wanted to act like we found a stack of comic books under our bed and said, ‘Hey, this would be a cool movie. We should make this Superman into a movie’ – because we had sort of taken that point of view, there was no cherry picking of stuff. We couldn’t just go, ‘Hey, it’d be cool if we could borrow these couple little things. That’s fine, right?’ So we knew that everything was going to be from zero.”

Zimmer was present at the event and spoke for a minute about how reluctant he was to create music in the shadow of such an iconic score:

“I was a reluctant bride, because not like Russell [Crowe], I had actually seen the other Superman movies and I just think the John Williams music is incredible. A couple of things happened. First, Chris said to me, ‘Come on. You can do the Superman movie.’ And I kept saying, ‘No, I can’t do the Superman movie because the big difference is when you went into Warner Brothers with the idea to do a Superman movie, you actually had an idea. I have nothing.’…[Zack] is a great artist. He doodles, he draws, and that’s a great language for me. David, you’ll have to forgive me for this, but the way we started was I said, ‘I don’t want to read the script. Tell me the story.’ Because then I knew what was in his head. Here’s the thing: I know what it’s like to be a foreigner. I know what it’s like to be an outsider. I have no super powers. Other than that, the other thing that Zack and I felt was really important was this idea of hope. We would celebrate something. We would celebrate an America that has not been celebrated in so long and just be genuine, right from the heart.”

Snyder jumped back in to praise Zimmer’s work and tell us the seemingly-impossible direction he gave to the famed composer about what the tone of the score should be:

“The one thing that comes through the score: there are big events in the film and the score is amazingly supportive of those events, but there is also, the thing I think that Hans did that’s amazing is, there is this – and we talked about it even before I heard it – we said, ‘It’d be cool if the Superman score was humble. If there was humility in the score, in like the Superman theme, if you will.’ Which is really hard. It’s abstract. I just said, ‘humility,’ and now make that into music, whatever that means. Thank God I’m not a musician, because I would never do that to him. I probably left, and he probably said, ‘What the fuck? That guy, I want to kill him!’ But you hear it and it’s in it. He says he doesn’t have super powers, but you hear however many notes that is, and you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s humble.'”

Without hearing the score, this conversation might sound like nonsense. But after you’ve seen the film and heard the score playing in conjunction with the images, you’ll know exactly what they mean. I’ve been listening to the score on repeat for the past few hours, and as weird as it is to say, you can definitely hear the humility in it. It’s terrific work by Zimmer, and just one of the fantastic elements that fell into place to make Man of Steel the huge project that it is.

Man of Steel hits theaters on June 14th, and you can read our interviews with Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, and Michael Shannon here as well as discussion from writer David Goyer and director Zack Snyder here.

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Ben is a writer living in Los Angeles, California. His work has been featured at ScreenRant.com, FirstShowing.net, MySpace.com, GeekTyrant.com, and many more sites across the web. Some of his favorite movies include The Rocketeer, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Tombstone, Lucky Number Slevin, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Collateral, Double Indemnity, Back to the Future and The Prestige. Follow him on Twitter: @BenPears.