At the beginning of the aughts, Jon Brion was the man for film soundtracks, especially the quirky and offbeat kind. He wrote the score for Paul Thomas Anderson's "Punch-Drunk Love" (and had done the same for "Magnolia"), as well as Michel Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and David O. Russell's "I Heart Huckabees,” and all three of these scores are considered contemporary indie classics.
He’s done notable work since, but some of it in comedies where the music isn’t so much in the foreground (i.e. did you know he also scored Adam McKay’s “Step Brothers” and “The Other Guys”?). He’s also worked with Judd Apatow (“Funny People,” “This Is 40”) and Charlie Kaufman (“Synecdoche, New York”), and suffice to say, he’s got a great CV.
But evidently there was almost another repeat collaboration with David O. Russell. According to the recent THR directors' roundtable interviews, the filmmaker asked Brion to write a score for the film, but it didn’t quite work with the film’s tone — something the composer himself said.
Russell, pretty much explains it all succinctly in this quote. “That happened to me with Jon Brion, who's a wonderful composer,” he said after Ang Lee spoke about the difficulties of replacing a composer midway through the film. “He composed the music for one of my earlier films, and then on ‘The Fighter’ he came to see an early cut, and he said, 'You don't need a score.' I said, 'Well, we need a very light touch,' knowing that he's a man who writes strong melodies. As friends, we wanted to work together. We then proceeded into this bad idea of him writing melodies that were very strong that did not belong in the movie. And I did not use it, which is heartbreaking.”
Bummer indeed. But Brion was on the money. There would’ve been no room in that movie for a traditional score. Maybe for Russell’s next project, the untitled FBI Abscam Film, formerly known as “American Bullshit” that stars Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner? Something tells us the energy of Russell’s newer films don’t really require a score (“Silver Linings Playbook” does employ a brief Danny Elfman score, but it's mostly made up for source music), but here’s hoping they find an excuse to work together again some day.