During his 27 years in Hollywood, Hans Zimmer has produced hundreds of film scores, sometimes five or six in the span of one year. But what’s interesting about his work is that it’s become more eclectic and undefinable, not less, as his career has progressed. Listening to his more recent work on films such as “Inception” and “Sherlock Holmes,” there are few traces of the synthesizer-heavy material he made his name with in the 1980s, and remarkably, few similarities even between those two recent examples. But even with expectations for his score for “The Dark Knight Rises” looming large over his work for the forthcoming film, Zimmer told The Playlist that he’s not sure how much the score will share in common with its atonal predecessor.
“We’ll find out,” Zimmer said Saturday in Los Angeles during press rounds for “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.” “Actually, before I started on ‘Sherlock’ I had an idea for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and I said to Chris, I just have this idea, this experiment, and it really it is something that I have no idea if it will work – have I earned the right yet to just get myself a really big orchestra into a room for a couple of days and just try this experiment? If I think and you think it’s horrible we’ll just throw it away and pretend it never happened and nobody’s going to give me a hard time later about it. It took him half a second to go, ‘Yeah, of course – go knock yourself out.’ So out of that actually came 25 minutes of pretty intense stuff that we have, and honestly I’m overflowing with ideas.”
Zimmer collaborated with James Newton Howard on the score for “The Dark Knight,” but shoulders scoring duties alone on “The Dark Knight Rises.” He explained that he’s so excited he intends to be in the studio often over the holidays just to develop those early ideas. “I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to explain to my children that I’m probably not going to be around at Christmas because I have to be in the studio,” he said. “I have to write ‘Dark Knight’ – not because anybody’s forcing me to, but just because I am actually a bit too excited for it.”
“Plus, those 25 minutes are [made up of] completely new stuff, and I’ve just started,” he revealed. “I think that the problem with working on sequels is how to keep them fresh for yourself, and both with ‘Sherlock’ and with ‘Dark Knight’ so far I’ve been able to manage to do that.”
In November, Zimmer offered Batman fans an opportunity to help create some of the music for “The Dark Knight Rises” when he posted instructions on the website Ujam for them to perform and record a “chant” he composed. He confessed that part of his reason for soliciting fan contributions was because it would have been prohibitive to actually hire the number of people he wanted to use to record it. “I wanted to get thousands of people to sing it – which is a little difficult,” he said. “So we just posted on the internet that in the privacy of your own home, go in front of your computer and do this chant, and so literally I have hundreds of thousands of the fans doing the chant at the moment.”
Zimmer also said he liked the fact that fans of the series could contribute and actually become a part of the films through their recordings. “We’ve created this world on 'Dark Knight,' and we’re sticking pretty autonomously to this world, but at the same time, our fans and the audience are inhabiting this world. And if you can actually pull them in and let them be part of this adventure, which is really what I’ve been trying to do. You, it’s really just a small facet of the whole thing, but we are trying to think out of the box.”
“Batman Begins” marked Zimmer’s first collaboration with Christopher Nolan, and he indicated that the two of them have since fallen into a very comfortable, collaborative relationship with one another. “I know the story, I read the script, and Chris and I spend a lot of time together just talking about ideas and things,” Zimmer said. “Very often these are ideas that are outside the scope of the actual movie but which are important to us.” Last month, Nolan flirted with the idea to film scenes for “The Dark Knight Rises” in New York at Occupy Wall Street protests, and Zimmer indicated that was a component of larger ideas the film explores.
“Obviously we’re talking about – who isn’t? – talking about where the world is going at the moment,” he said. “So the idea of the chant, for instance, that pre-dated Occupy Wall Street by quite a bit, but suddenly you find, oh, hang on a second, there’s something in the zeitgeist which moves us all.”
Zimmer said Nolan seems pleased with what he’s done thus far, but he also encouraged the filmmaker to take his pieces and shape them how he saw fit to best suit the film. “Chris came to those sessions I was doing in London with the orchestra, and I’m going, 'Well, what do you think?' And he’s going, ‘Well, I think you just wrote half of the movie.’ And I think that’s probably an exaggeration, but I think we’re both aware of our places in the zeitgeist, and at the same time, I think that we have a very similar aesthetic really helps.”
“We’re both very open,” he continued. “I just give him this music and go, 'Okay, go and play around with it and see what you can do with it.' And I saw a chunk of film the other day, it’s not a secret any more, and somebody connected to the movie actually who was there as well seeing it was going, 'Oh, how did you know how to write the scenes so well before he had even shot it?' And, well, I didn’t know how to write that scene so well before he shot it, but the whole idea is that we are on the same page.”
Although he was mum on other projects, Zimmer did clarify his current status with “Man of Steel,” Zack Snyder’s upcoming Superman film which Nolan is producing. “‘Man of Steel’ is in direct conflict with something else, and I haven’t worked it out yet,” he said. “That rumor keeps floating around, [but] I’m not engaging that one at the moment.”
In the meantime, he indicated he still has a little bit of time left to spend with his “Sherlock Holmes” work, albeit not for the film itself. Specifically, he’s spearheading a few live performances of the music he did for the sequel which will include the Romani musicians who inspired him. “I’m going to spend one more week being silly and having fun with ‘Sherlock Holmes’,” he revealed. “I’m going to London, and we’re bringing all of the Romani musicians in from Slovakia; you have never seen such poverty, and they’re bringing them into London. They’re going to be playing at our premiere there, and they’re actually going to be playing the Warner Brothers Christmas party. So we’re going to have a bit of fun as well. So I have like one more week of being in that world, before I go and become very dark.”
Until that happens, Zimmer insisted that there was still time for fans to contribute their chants at Ujam, although he passed along a little bit of advice to prospective contributors. “If more people want to go and take part in the chant for 'Dark Knight,' and just let them know they need to get a little angrier,” he said. Because by the time you get a hundred thousand people on there, if your voice is going to be heard, you’d better give it a bit of energy.”
"The Dark Knight Rises" opens on July 20, 2012.