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Trent Reznor Breaks Down His 'Gone Girl' Score

The Nine Inch Nails frontman tells us how he and partner Atticus Ross created their latest dark-toned collaboration with director David Fincher

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Step One: Get Familiar with the Material
”I’d read the book and had seen the script, then we really talked with David about what he wanted the role of music to be. He doesn’t speak in terms of ‘I’m thinking a quartet of strings.’ It’s more about colors or tone. It’s like dressing a set: What feels like it belongs in that space? What feels like Missouri? What feels like the erosion of this relationship? Is he thinking more orchestral or acoustic or cold or bright or scary? We compose chunks of music that last from three to five minutes, and we present these as swatches, and then David, his editor, and his sound designer start experimenting and slapping things into scenes.”

Step Two: Don’t Repeat Yourself
Gone Girl didn’t feel propulsive and sequenced like The Social Network; it didn’t feel icy and all about landscapes like [The Girl With the] Dragon Tattoo, which was meant to make you feel like you needed to put a sweater on while you’re watching it. Rather than start with a picture, I came up with an emotion I’m trying to convey — ‘Let’s adapt this set of ideas.’ It leads us to places we wouldn’t go from a different initiation point.”

Step Three: Waste Some Time
”We’ve written hours of stuff that didn’t work or went down paths that didn’t feel right. We’ll end up rewriting and rearranging, sometimes radically, experimenting and slapping things into scenes. It doesn’t seem like that’s how people with the real [scoring] jobs do it. I’d like to learn that part, because it sounds like it might be a lot less work when you’re only writing what needs to be used.”

Step Four: Don’t Make the Score the Star
”I don’t want you to leave thinking, ‘Wow, the music was great.’ I want you to leave thinking, ‘The film was great.’ I’m spoiled because I’m in a very exceptional situation with David — I’m not answering to producers or involved in test screenings or audience bulls—. I only answer to him and to myself. What’s not to like? And if it sucks, I can still blame David.”

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