If you can’t get Limp Bizkit’s latest brain-rattling rap epic ”Take a Look Around (M:I-2 Theme)” out of your head, you aren’t the only one. The hard rocking tune for ”Mission: Impossible 2” hit the top 20 on Billboard’s modern rock airplay chart even before the movie was released. But you may not know that Limp Bizkit weren’t the original front-runners to do the track. Here’s the story of how they got their deal.
Hans Zimmer (who composed ”M:I-2”’s orchestral score) and soundtrack producer Mitchell Leib were searching for a harder, more rap-oriented sound for the John Woo-directed film. So the pair asked some 20 artists — including Korn, Moby, Tricky, Cake, the Chemical Brothers, J. Mascis (of Dinosaur Jr.), New Order, Orbital and thrash-industrial icons MDFMK — to tackle the not quite impossible mission of updating the 1966 Lalo Schifrin tune. Korn declined because of an over-booked schedule, but their manager Peter Katsis (who also handles Limp Bizkit) recommended Fred Durst and Co. for the job. And the competition began.
The process didn’t come cheap: Movie studios typically shell out $10,000 to $15,000 a pop for a band to record demo tracks, with more to come if the cut is chosen for the film and soundtrack. Superstars, though, command even higher prices. ”With a project like this, you can’t be a wimp about money,” says producer Leib. ”Acts like Tricky won’t even step into a studio until you pay their flat fee.” Leib says the price tag for commissioning the quickie demos was in the $100,000 range. But that was just the beginning of the final cost. According to a music industry source familiar with the ”M:I-2” project, the movie’s soundtrack budget may have ultimately topped $4 million, with one act, Metallica, earning $1 million for their contribution, ”I Disappear.” (The soundtrack’s label, Hollywood Records, was unavailable to comment on these figures by press time.)
If money was no object, previous big screen experience was. Producer-star Tom Cruise insisted that artists be limited to those whose résumés were soundtrack-free. ”Tom said he didn’t want anything that was ‘been there, done that,”’ says Leib. Though Limp Bizkit met Cruise’s requirements, the band was initially anything but a favorite. The reason: When Leib first began auditioning acts more than a year ago, the group’s inescapable single ”Nookie” had yet to be released.
In the end, it was their demo that won them the gig. ”When I listened to Limp Bizkit’s song, it was the first time I heard anybody really make sense of the ‘Mission Impossible’ theme,” says Zimmer. ”And I know that isn’t easy, because a lot of people had a go at trying to make it work.”
But suddenly there was a new problem. ”Take A Look Around” was a hit with Cruise, Leib, and Zimmer, but the fact that ”Nookie” soon caught on with the rest of America created a negotiating nightmare with Limp Bizkit’s label, Interscope Records. ”There was suddenly the distinct possibility that we might not get the marketing rights [to their theme],” says Leib. ”So we had David Kahne [producer/songwriter for Sugar Ray] as well as Stone Temple Pilots waiting in the wings just in case the deal fell through. And we were offering Kid Rock a ridiculous amount of money to do it. Getting the Limp Bizkit song was touch and go right up until the last minute.”
Though the band’s version ultimately got the green light, the fate of the other ”M:I-2” demos is still in limbo. ”I was thinking we should license all of them and have an album called ‘The M:I-2 Theme Wars,”’ says Leib, who describes Cake’s take as ”very creative.” But whether any of the artists want their reject-bin demos in record stores is a question. ”Moby banged his out pretty quickly, so I don’t think even he would say this is one of his best,” explains Leib. If only the demos could be programmed to self-destruct in five seconds.