Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross — Nine inch Nails frontman and frequent collaborator, respectively — first worked with David Fincher in 2010 on “The Social Network,” and the collaboration proved incredibly fruitful. The pair won an Oscar for their work on their Original Score and re-teamed with Fincher on “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” This year, they collaborated with the director a third time on “Gone Girl,” and the partnership has already garnered Reznor and Ross a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score. We love the score so much here, we ranked it among the 15 Best Film Scores of 2014.
The duo recently sat down for a Q&A about their score at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Right off the bat, they discuss how they first sorted out their process for composing films, which they arrived at via their initial collaboration with Fincher. Reznor reminisces about how Fincher called him a few years ago to work on the score for “The Social Network,” promising to provide a comfortable and encouraging environment when Reznor expressed his unfamiliarity with composing a film score. The composers were so new to it, they tossed around a bunch of ideas for how to approach the new venture, from “calling up [their] friend Hans Zimmer” to ask questions to seeing if there were even any how-to books on scoring a film.
Ultimately, they “discovered something that ended up working pretty well for [us], which was to not think about a specific scene, not think about ‘here’s a 30-second passage that needs something to happen.’ But let’s think about the whole film as a whole. Let’s try to compose music that feels like it would dress the set of that space, almost like set design.” He continues, “Let’s color outside the lines and take it two steps further in that direction to see what David would respond to.” They repeat this approach again and again, finessing the music, honing in on the sound that Fincher wants for the film. Reznor and Ross replicated this methodology for “Gone Girl” though with admittedly slightly less trepidation and with familiarity with Fincher and his team.
Reznor claims that their process “always starts with listening to, in this case, David. Really trying to get inside his head, of what picture is he trying to make. He’s thought really deeply about this material. He’s enthusiastic. He speaks purposely vague at times to not leave too clear a picture, because he wants what you bring to the table. And we really try to listen to what it is he’s trying to accomplish and get across — become very familiar with the material — and then leave our ego at the door and just try to disappear into what’s the film sound like, what’s it feel like.”
Ross contributes, claiming that Fincher is “obviously a man with great intellect and great vision, but he isn’t a micro-manager.” Sounds like a great partnership, and the results — both in the end product and critical praise — are a testament to its success. Watch the full talk below.