So yes, “Oblivion” landed this past week and it was a big, big hit taking nearly $40 million at the U.S. box office with another $61 million in the bank from overseas, leading to a very happy weekend for execs at Universal. And indeed, it was likely a nice couple of days for M83 aka Anthony Gonzalez, with the French electro-shoegaze maestro making it through this first Hollywood scoring gig, a major studio blockbuster and coming out looking pretty good. He even put in an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live“ to help get the word out. But as he candidly tells Pitchfork, things weren’t always so sunny on the movie.
“I was on tour and they asked me for like three demos. I sent 17. I was working until 6 a.m. in the back of the bus. I put a lot of hard work on this job to get it. So when I got it, I was really moved and also like, ‘God, this is serious. Now I’ve got to do this!’ With such a big movie, you can’t only please yourself. You have to please the director and the studios and tons of people who are involved,” but the pressure was intense. “It took us one year to work on ‘Oblivion’ with Joseph Trapanese, and I’ve been through all types of emotions. I almost quit. I couldn’t sleep. I was so stressed out. I was on the verge of breaking down. We were touring a lot and I had to work on this at the same time.”
Gonzalez makes it clear that working with Trapenese was not an issue, but instead, it seems to have been a clash of vision with the studio when it came to the overall sound. “It was hard, but I learned so much and I feel like I grew up a lot as an artist working on this film. You have to be consistent. You have to do quick turnovers when something is not appealing for the studios or the directors. I quickly realized that all the ideas of the music I had before working on it weren’t going to happen because it’s Hollywood and because it’s a $150 million dollar budget. I’m not the boss. I’m just someone working for them,” Gonzalez explained. “They needed something bigger, more orchestral; it was hard for me to be told that my music was too indie for the film. I was pissed most of the time, but this is how it works. It’s like, ‘Take it or leave it.’ And I took it. [laughs]”
Some have been concerned that the completed score doesn’t really sound like M83 at all, but something altogether more traditional, and Gonzalez agrees, adding that he would preferred to have been credited by his given name, but Universal wanted to capitalize on his much more well known band name.
“I would have pushed for ‘Anthony Gonzalez and Joe Trapanese’ [on the credits] because for me, this is how the score was done,” he explained. “I didn’t want to involve M83 in that, but it’s hard because Universal wanted to push M83 because of the success of ‘Midnight City.’ It’s funny because sometimes big studios don’t give a shit about you, but when you’re nominated for a Grammy, you start receiving emails like, ‘Oh, congratulations. We’re excited about the soundtrack.’ I’m like, ‘You didn’t give a shit about me two months ago when I got the job, and now you’re just acting like a …’ It makes you feel like there’s something wrong with the movie industry– you can write that, I don’t care.”
It seems like it was a trial by fire for Gonzalez in his first major movie scoring gig (yes, he’s credited on the French film “Black Heaven,” but he has disowned his work on that film.) But it also seems as though the compromise that comes with the territory was very hard to swallow, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of movie gig he tackles next. Perhaps a movie where he has total autonomy on the finished music.
“Oblivion” is in theaters now.