Interview: 'Man of Steel' composer Hans Zimmer


For the lack of better words, the merging of Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer and acclaimed director Zack Snyder for "Man of Steel" came about in a super-unusual way.

Zimmer recalled he was at a party celebrating the release of director Christopher Nolan's "Inception" when a journalist asked him if he was going to score "Man of Steel" -- a project by director Zack Snyder and producer Nolan that was then in its early stages.

"I said, 'Absolutely, definitely not. I've never even met Zack Snyder, but I believe he's a talented director and a man who will pick his own composer,'" Zimmer told me in a recent interview. "What I said was completely misunderstood and the next day, the Internet was a-blast with 'Hans Zimmer's is doing the Superman movie.'"

In an effort to explain the misunderstanding, Zimmer said he phoned Snyder when a moment of serendipity occurred.

"He said, 'Oh, it's really funny that you should phone me because I'm listening to some music of yours and I'm really liking it. We really need to meet,'" Zimmer recalled.

Opening in theaters Friday in 2D, 3D and on IMAX screens, "Man of Steel" stars Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman a child of Krypton still struggling to find his purpose in life 33 year after his parents, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer) send him from their dying planet to forge his own destiny on Earth.

Co-written by Nolan and David S. Goyer, the film also stars Amy Adams as Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane, Michael Shannon as Superman's nemesis General Zod and Laurence Fishburne as Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane also star as Clark's adoptive parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent.

See the trailer for "Man of Steel" below.

Zimmer admits that he played hard-to-get when it came agreeing to doing the score for the film, mainly because of a certain other composer who scored the original "Superman" movie with Christopher Reeve.

"To me, John Williams is the master," Zimmer said humbly. "I didn't really want to follow him or get compared or not do as good a job."

Plus, Zimmer tried to justify not taking the job with another excuse -- he's from Europe.

"I think Superman is completely an American icon. When I was meeting with Zack, I was thinking, 'Why are you even talking with this German?'" Zimmer said with a laugh.

The 55-year-old German's excuse didn't hold up too long, though, once Snyder started explaining his vision of the film.

"He was telling me a story that was so entirely different from the Superman that I grew up with. He knows what buttons to push. He's a brilliant director," Zimmer said. "He was talking a lot of about him being a stranger in a strange land and being a foreigner, and trying to figure out how you fit in. All those things resonated with me."

One thing that most every fan of the superhero genre is aware of is how much a film's theme defines the lead character, and fans will no doubt be comforted by Zimmer's experience in that area scoring all three films in Nolan's "Dark Knight Trilogy."

But for "Man of Steel," Zimmer, Snyder and Nolan didn't want to just celebrate Superman the superhero and where he came from, but the pivotal characters who help shape who he becomes on Earth.

"After nine years of living the life of 'The Dark Knight' in one way or the other, one of the things Chris and Zack brought to me was this idea of celebrating something -- doing something which is much more positive," Zimmer explained. "One of things I wanted to write about was farmers in Kansas and the Midwest, and the decency of people. They don't lock their doors at night and they are gentle and trusting, and because they invite a stranger in."

Interview: "Man of Steel" star Henry Cavill

Zimmer believes that part of the score is a huge departure from what he's been known for of late.

"So many of the movies I have done in recent years have feel full of cynicism, irony or darkness," Zimmer observed. "I thought, why not with 'Man of Steel' we shine the spotlight on the first responder. Let me shine the spotlight on the guy who doesn't turn away -- the selfless. So, one thing we decided early on was that they were going to let me write a humble score. I already know how to do the big, epic stuff and we got lots of that in the movie. But the thing I wanted to crack was the heart of it."

Fortunately, Zimmer got an early indication how the score was being received -- and the story was being perceived -- when the film's third trailer revealed some of his original music for the film.

"That's when I starting noticing how people were commenting on this movie differently," Zimmer said. "They weren't going, 'Ooh, wow, we've not only have a big action movie ahead of us -- this might be a little bit about something else. There might actually be an emotional experience to be had here."

BringMeTheNews film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11” and WCCO Radio. As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed more than 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.

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