While John Carpenter‘s "The Thing" features an iconic theme song, written by Ennio Morricone, what you might not know is that much of the material that the legendary composer penned for the movie didn’t wind up in the film. The music still exists on a now out-of-print soundtrack release, but it has technically never been used in an actual movie. Until now. Quentin Tarantino‘s "The Hateful Eight" marks his first movie to feature a commissioned score by none other than Morricone himself — but pressed for time to get it done, the composer and director came up with a clever shortcut to round out the soundtrack.
In a Q&A with Christopher Nolan following a DGA screening of the film, Tarantino revealed that he initially had reservations about putting the music for his movie in someone else’s hands. “I had a little voice in my head saying, ‘This material deserved an original score.’ And I’ve never thought that way before, I’ve never had that voice before. I didn’t ever want to trust a composer with the soul of my movie,” he explained.
Nevertheless, he met with Morricone, and initially, it seemed like scheduling might’ve kiboshed their collaboration. “We started talking and he thought I hadn’t started to shoot yet. Little did he know I had shot, and I would need the score in a month," Tarantino said. "And he’s like, ‘This is not going to work. I’m working with Giuseppe Tornatore, and he just finished shooting the other day, and I’ve got to do his score, this is not going to work. I was told a lot of things that weren’t correct, and I’m really sorry.’ And I go, ‘Well, tell me what you thought about the script.’ "
“ ‘I see a theme that’s moving forward, there’s a forward momentum to it that suggests a stagecoach, but the important part of the theme is the fact that it truly suggests the violence that follow eventually,’ " Tarantino said, paraphrasing Morricone.
"That sounds pretty fucking good,“ Tarantino thought, adding that he floated the idea of using music from "The Thing" to Morricone. And the composer came up with a plan that would help provide the director a complete score.
Tarantino reveals that Morricone explained to him, "…’I wrote a whole orchestra score [for ‘The Thing’], and I wrote a whole synthesizer score, because I knew that was what [John Carpenter] was used to, and I gave him everything, and the only thing he used in the entire movie was the synthesizer main title [track].’ So basically, if you stay away from the synthesizer main title, all that music that’s on the soundtrack album has never been used in a movie ever. So, he goes, ‘What I can do, is I’ll write the theme…and with the other ‘Thing’ pieces of music, now you have your original score that’s never been used in a movie before.’ "
However, once Morricone got going on ‘Hateful,’ he told Tarantino the next day, " ‘I’m going to write you more music.’ And I think he literally sat down that night and started composing the theme that he was talking about and got more inspired, and came up with more music. And then all of a sudden ten minutes of music became seventeen minutes of music, became thirty-five minutes of music. And so with that, and the unused ‘Thing’ portions that I used, [I’ve got] my original score."
It’ll be interesting see if the mix of previously written music for "The Thing" cancels out Morricone’s Oscar eligibility — my guess is that it will. That particular branch of the Academy is pretty ruthless when it comes to original scores being, well, original.
Check out the full talk with Christopher Nolan right here. "The Hateful Eight" opens on Christmas Day and you can listen to Morricone’s "The Thing" score below. But first, the interview with Tarantino and Nolan which you can watch here or listen to the audio below.