Hans Zimmer has composed the music for over 70 feature films.
He is probably best known for his scores for Gladiator
and The Lion King (for which he won an Oscar). In addition
to his composing work, Zimmer heads DreamWorks' film music
division. We caught up with him as The
Ring was released to buy on DVD and video...
Smithson: How did you get involved with writing the score
for The Ring?
Zimmer: I went to see director Gore Verbinski about something
completely different, I was not going to do this movie, I
was going to take a year off. And Gore started to show me
some images and I started to get some ideas. I had just done
a children's movie and I felt I needed to cross over to my
darker side again because I was too cheerful [laughs]. Life
must be too good. I go between these different styles a lot.
German and collect German expressionism, and I thought the
images Gore had shot were very much in a style of film making
that doesn't exist anymore. The score was pretty much written
in that meeting.
wish I could tell you how difficult it was but it wasn't [laughs].
Plus there is something really attractive about working on
a very small contained movie as opposed to "the Hollywood
blockbuster". It felt very much like working on a European
movie. There are a lot of silences in this movie, so we were
talking about silences opposed to the next car chase. None
of the fast action events have music. So it's very much back
to where I come from.
Is the horror genre more challenging than working on an children's
animated movie like Spirit?
In Spirit I would have been happy if we had had a few
more words of dialogue in it. But the pressure is enormous
because I have children. If I disappoint my children I can't
go home, that's real pressure! With this, I was nervous before
the screening because I was sure I was going to get fired,
thinking that the movie would be worse with my music in it.
screening went well, and everybody wondered why was I behaving
like that. It's because each one of them is an experiment.
You try to reinvent it in a way. What I like about this genre,
horror movies, sound-wise some of the best ones are The
Exorcist, The Shining, and Psycho, so for composers,
horror movies have always been an area where you can go and
reinvent something. I don't think I reinvented a lot in this,
I just had a game.
Where you inspired much by the original Japanese version of
Not on purpose. I felt that if we were to do a remake, we
should forget that and try to create something new. This story
is very much an urban myth-like story, so we just tried to
embrace it as new, and not to try to be inspired or rip off
What is the best instrument to suggest fear?
God, I don't know. This score's only dark instruments are
cellos. I was trying to get them to play higher all of the
time. So the fear came from the musicians being uncomfortable
playing their instrument in a way they're not used to - where
it becomes dangerous, they make mistakes easily up there.
That was my way of putting fear into it, having the musicians
Was the horror genre new to you?
Many years ago, just after World Apart I did my break
through movie, a small movie called Paperhouse which
was written by a child psychologist who had a little girl
who had dreams. It happened in a very similar place to this.
So I have been in this territory. But I always think that
if someone gives me a chance to revisit a subject, I can perhaps
do it a little bit better.
When you look back at your old work have you been known to
Absolutely. Some things I find, surprisingly, stand the test
of time. But a lot of it is dreadful. That's why you carry
on working, because you try to get better. You're either born
with good taste, or you're not, so you instantly feel as if
your work is good or bad. It's not like somebody had to tell
you that 'less is more'.
I know one musician who shall remain nameless, who was in
a very successful band and he just doesn't do music anymore,
because he was born with the curse of good taste; he edits
everything and nothing gets finished because he knows it's
no good or not good enough. But what I do is play music, and
the emphasis is on the word 'play'. It's supposed to be fun.
I'm not curing cancer here.
Are you a perfectionist?
No, I'm an absolutist, which is one step worse than a perfectionist.
That means 'it's never good enough' and it's only when Gore
comes in my room and tells me that we are releasing this movie
without music if I don't finish now, that I finish. That's
why I need deadlines.
Do you believe in any urban legends?
I'm very sceptical of most things I hear or read. But I think
myths are very powerful, and it's more about if I believe
in fairy tales, which this really is. They are wonderful things
that are beyond explanation in this film. I don't even care
if it's scary or not, I just think there is good imagination
in this work here.
Do you think that any of your children will follow in your
I hope not. I hope they all get real jobs. They can all go
and join a band once they've got their medical or law degrees!
is a dicey job. I was very, very lucky. There were a few years
when it was financially really crap, but I didn't get another
job because if you are a musician, or if you are me, you need
to play music, otherwise you will suffocate. So if you're
that obsessive, you play it even when the guys are repossessing
your furniture and your landlord is kicking you out. I don't
wish that on my kids.
What kind of mood were you in whilst working on The Ring?
Mysterious and moody, but I knew that I had to keep it in
check because during Gladiator, which was a long process,
the first time my wife saw it was around the premiere. She
was sitting next to me, and she suddenly started to hit me
really hard. I asked her, "What was that for?" She said, "Now
I know why you have been such a bastard for the last few months!".
I didn't know. We were all like badly behaved boys on that
movie. We were all in our gladiator outfits, stomping around
and being bad. I do method composing I suppose. So with this
film I'd come from my studio, put on a smile and act myself
at home. That Gladiator thing actually woke me up.
What's your next project?
Ridley Scott's The Matchstick Men. I'm just starting
that. It's a great movie. If we can pull it off, nobody will
think that this is Ridley Scott or Hans Zimmer. I think they'll
be surprised. It's more of a comedy than a drama. There's
something wonderful that happens when Europeans come to America
and look at America, because in a funny way we aren't cynical
about it. We can see wonderful things in the valley. I think
it's going to be a bit of a love story to Los Angeles.
Thank you for your time.
thanks to Jason Young at New Media Maze
Ring is available to buy from DreamWorks
01 September 2003 RRP
£19.99 (DVD) and RRP £14.99 (Video)
the DVD for £13.99 by clicking here
Buy the Video for £11.99 by clicking here