Busy, Ballsy Composer Alexandre Desplat Thwacks Quentin Tarantino


There's "in demand" -- like admitted workaholics Willem Dafoe or Tilda Swinton -- and then there's "in demand." Take Alexandre Desplat, for example, the twice-Oscar nominated composer who has worked on seven films in 2009 alone, not counting his contributions to date to Terrence Malick's delayed The Tree of Life. It's an eclectic resume as well, grouping the brilliant score to Cheri with two love themes to New Moon and a pair of French films we won't even see until 2010 at the earliest. And while Variety has a nice, friendly introduction to Desplat in today's composer roundelay, it's the recent smackdown for the film he didn't score -- and its director, Quentin Tarantino -- that might leave the biggest impression.

During a master class last weekend at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Desplat was asked about Tarantino's disinclination to score his films with virtually anything but preexisting work, from the pop standards of Reservoir Dogs to the spaghetti-Western benchmarks of Ennio Morricone underlying Basterds. (I presume Desplat probably would allow for, if not necessarily approve of, RZA's original compositions for Kill Bill?) In a moment of surprising artist-to-artist bitchslappery, the composer confessed disapproval for the technique, citing both a lack of inspiration and more than a bit of selfishness on Tarantino's part:

"The director's free to do what he wants to do. So if Tarantino likes this or that, that's fine. I know Tarantino hates movie soundtracks, except he's using music from movie soundtracks all the time -- from Morricone to Bernard Herrmann to you name it. It's just so provocative, I guess, a thing. Maybe he doesn't have the inspiration -- let's call it that -- to call a composer and share the authorship with a composer. That's something that many -- that some directors have difficulty to do. They think they are the only author, and they don't want to share that with a composer. They think the composer is going to steal something from them, which is false."

And just for posterity, here's some video of Desplat's comments. It could definitely use some fight-y, feud-y tunes to complement it; feel free to share your authorship (or not) as you please.

· Composer Alexandre Desplat on a roll [Variety]

· Alexandre Desplat on working with Terrence Malick, more [Movie City Indie]


  • Eric says:

    I totally disagree with this statement. Tarantino carefully chooses the music he puts into his movies, even if it isn't an original score. The songs compliment his scenes.
    Whether Tarantino chooses to do it because he really doesn't want to share credit with a composer is between Tarantino and himself. However, it's not like he just slaps some hip, pop song in a scene for the sake of adding music.
    Think about some of his absolutely memorable scenes:
    -Lucy Liu and her gang walking out to "Battle Without Honor or Humanity"
    -Uma Thurman over dosing on heroin to "Girl, You'll be a Woman Soon."
    and, of course,
    -Michael Madsen dancing around to "Stuck in the Middle With You" as he douses the cop in gasoline.
    I'm not denying that Desplat doesn't do great work...but he might need to get off his high horse every once and a while.

  • Donovan says:

    Tarantino actually wanted an original score for "Basterds". He asked Ennio Morricone... but the production schedule was accelerated and Morricone refused to compose a score in so little time.

  • Alex says:

    How is Desplat saying "If that's what Tarantino likes...that's fine" any form of "bitchslappery"? He simply has a disagreement with Tarantino's opinion and presented a simple argument of how the director uses other soundtracks from other composers, thus he shouldn't fear working with another composer.
    That's a fair argument. Even if I think Tarantino is free to do whatever he wants.
    You would've thought he insulted someone or said something personal about Tarantino.
    "Whether Tarantino chooses to do it because he really doesn't want to share credit with a composer is between Tarantino and himself. However, it's not like he just slaps some hip, pop song in a scene for the sake of adding music."
    But Desplat never accused him of slaping "some hip, pop song" into a scene.
    What is wrong with you people?

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