''There Will Be Blood'': Behind the music
''There Will Be Blood'' director Paul Thomas Anderson and composer Jonny Greenwood (a.k.a. Radiohead's guitarist), chat about their unique collaboration on December's historical epic
At or near the top of most cinephiles’ list of the most exciting filmmakers working today is Paul Thomas Anderson. Fill in ”music fans” and ”bands” in the above construction, and Radiohead is the no-brainer choice to end that sentence. Now, Anderson and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood have teamed up. The director of such landmark films as Boogie Nights and Magnolia enlisted one of the main creative forces behind such landmark albums as OK Computer and Kid A to score the highly anticipated There Will Be Blood (opening Dec. 26). There will be strings… often abrasive, dissonant, disturbing, and always very loud strings.
Blood marks a departure for both mavericks, though maybe even a little more so for Anderson, who’d never done a period piece before tackling this tale of a misanthropic oil man (Daniel Day-Lewis) in California at the turn of the last century. Though it’s not widely known, Greenwood is no neophyte to orchestration, having done one film score before (for an experimental documentary called Bodysong), in addition to being commissioned by the BBC to compose a piece called ”Popcorn Superhet Receiver,” which is excerpted in Blood and helped get him this gig.
If you can’t wait for the film to hit theaters at Christmas time, a soundtrack CD on Nonesuch will precede the movie. But if you really, really can’t wait, EW got the two collaborators on the phone together, trans-Atlantically, to talk about their collaboration.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Setting aside your new collaboration for a moment, could I ask you both to name a personal favorite of each other’s previous work? Jonny, I was specifically wondering if there’s anything about the way Paul has used music in his previous movies that stuck out for you. And Paul, do you have a favorite piece by Radiohead?
JONNY GREENWOOD: I’m feeling like I’m on Mr. and Mrs. [an English show equivalent to America’s The Newlywed Game]… Punch-Drunk Love had such great music in it. I’m a sucker for pump organ. That was really cool.
PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON: What was the last song on Amnesiac, Jonny, was it ”Life in a Glass House”?
GREENWOOD: The Dixieland one!
ANDERSON: The Dixieland one makes me excited and melancholy and really satisfied every time I hear it. I love that song.
GREENWOOD: That’s cool. The guys who played it, they’re 84… and we were only supposed to have them there for two hours, and we kept them there all day and most of the night. [Laughs] It was touch and go. But that was a really fun day, recording a band like that. Yeah, I love that song, too.
Paul, you have a dedication at the end of this movie to one of your heroes, Robert Altman. But this is one of your least Altmanesque films. A lot of it is one character out in the desert, with long silences suddenly giving way to screeching strings. It reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey, where Stanley Kubrick had the silence of space and then suddenly ”The Blue Danube” or one of the more dissonant pieces he used.
ANDERSON: Well, it’s so hard to do anything that doesn’t owe some kind of debt to what Stanley Kubrick did with music in movies. Inevitably, you’re going to end up doing something that he’s probably already done before. It can all seem like we’re falling behind whatever he came up with. ”Singin’ in the Rain” in Clockwork Orange — that was the first time I became so aware of music in movies. So no matter how hard you try to do something new, you’re always following behind. The whole opening 20 minutes was meant to be silent. I always had a dream about trying to make a movie that had no dialogue in it, that was just music and pictures. I still haven’t done it yet, but I tried to get close in the beginning.
NEXT PAGE: ”Jonny was really one of the first people to see the film. And when he came back with a bunch of music, it actually helped show me what his impression of the film was. Which was terrific, because I had no impression.”
There Will Be Blood