Thom Yorke Surprised Luca Guadagnino by Singing on the ‘Suspiria’ Soundtrack — Podcast

Toolkit Podcast Ep. 64: The "Call Me By Your Name" director opens up about his struggle with film scores and why, before working with the Radiohead front man, he swore he would never work with a composer again.
Thom Yorke and Luca Guadagnino
Thom Yorke and Luca Guadagnino
ETTORE FERRARI/Shutterstock and Amazon

Fourteen years ago, Luca Guadagnino and his longtime editor Walter Fasano decided that the soundtrack for their 2005 feature “Melissa P.” should be made up of “music of the now.” With the help of Carlo Antonelli, editor in chief of Rolling Stone Italy, they scored the film using 40 songs they believed would resonate with teenagers all around the world. On IndieWire’s Filmmaker Toolkit Podcast, Guadagnino said what the trio had created was impressive, but the ultimate end result was a disaster.

“We did that in a little bit of an irresponsible way because we didn’t know if we could afford it,” said Guadagnino. “The studio hated it because they found that not having a theme in the soundtrack, but going from song to song, like in ‘Goodfellas,’ you could not really connect with Melissa (María Valverde) in the way Hollywood makes you believe a soundtrack should connect with a character, with the music almost pushing you to feel what you should feel.”

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The studio forced Guadagnino to hire a composer, a collaboration that left him scarred. It wasn’t that he necessarily disliked the music, but that the score added a layer that altered the movie in a way the director never intended.

“The relationship between music and images is so important, that I [ended] up being in a place where I didn’t recognize my movie because my movie wasn’t there,” said Guadagnino. “I was watching something that was a voice I didn’t want. So I promised myself never again was I going to work with a composer, never again.”

For his next films Guadagnino relied on a repertoire of well-established tracks handpicked by Fasano and himself. With “I Am Love” they leaned on the music of composer John Adams. “A Bigger Splash” combined Adams music with songs by The Rolling Stones and Antonio Carlos Jobim. “Call Me By Your Name” mixed piano pieces by a collection of great composers, while Guadagnino invited Sufjan Stevens to write two original songs.

“But on ‘Suspiria,’ I thought it was a cheat to use let’s say [composer Krzysztof] Penderecki or John Adams, because already Stanley Kubrick had done it [in his horror film ‘The Shining’] in a way that is unsurpassable, in my opinion,” said Guadagnino. “And also because Dario [Argento, director of the 1977 ‘Suspiria] had this soundtrack by Goblin that spoke to that generation in such an important way that my thread of thought went through, ‘OK, if I have to consider someone to do the soundtrack and not use repertoire, it should be someone who speaks for my generation, that is the voice of my generation, and the answer was quick and inequivocabile, it was Thom Yorke and Radiohead, but mostly Thom.”


The first step was to ask Yorke, who unlike bandmate Jonny Greenwood had never done a film score, if he would be interested. If Yorke said no, Guadagnino was resolved to lean once again on music of Adams and mix in some Pentrechky.

“It is only after a few months of conversations, before shooting, [Yorke] sent me a few cues,” said Guadagnino. “I put the cue on and there was this beautiful melody and there was [hums ‘The Suspiria’ melody] without words. So I said, ‘Oh my god, he wants to sing!’ But I never spoke to him about songs in the film. And that’s when I realized his concept of the soundtrack was really almost like a total piece of art that encompassed symphonic music, electronic music, songs, choruses— amazing.”

Guadagnino said Yorke had an incredible interpretation of Dave Kajhanich’s script and threw himself completely into the project, including visiting set to see how it was being shot and constantly sending in a stream of material throughout the process.

“We were sending him material all the time,” said Guadagnino. “His relationship with my editor was great and his commitment to this was amazing. I can’t wait to do another movie with him, if he wants to do it.”

SUSPIRIA Dakota Johnson (center) and Mia Goth (center-left)
“Suspiria”Alessio Bolzoni/Amazon Studios

Guadagnino also talked about deciding to take on the adaptation of Bob Dyan’s “Blood on the Tracks” and his love of the original “Suspiria,” but how his version was based on what he felt Argento’s film was missing.

The Filmmaker Toolkit podcast is available on Apple PodcastsOvercastStitcherSoundCloud and Google Play Music

The music used in this podcast is from the “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present” score, courtesy of composer Nathan Halpern.

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