Composer Brian Tyler Talks 'Furious 7' & 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' Scores, Franchise Movies' Music & More [EXCLUSIVE Q&A]
Two of the biggest, most successful movies of 2015 are Furious 7 and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Though these films broke box office numbers and garnered plenty of acclaim from fans, they have one other very important element in common: composer Brian Tyler. The multitalented songwriter is used to having many projects on his plate, working with top producers and directors, and delivering important musical moments that help guide the overall effect of a movie. In our exclusive Q & A interview with Tyler, we discussed the emotional side of Paul Walker's final Furious appearance, creating emotional responses with the audience, working on franchises and much more!
We spoke to Brian last year about his previous project. Read this interview right here!
The last time we spoke, Furious 7 didn't even have its official title, but has since hit theaters, broke records and really had an impact on the fans of the series. Many felt that this film was a great tribute to Paul Walker - was that idea in your mind while composing?
Yeah, for sure. With the score, I had joined the film in 2013 and I wasn't in the mindset of exactly what it became. It became something different entirely when the tragedy happened which was days after I left-I was out in Atlanta on set and shortly after I returned we found out that he had died in a car crash. It was very devastating to everyone in the film. We thought that we probably wouldn't do the film actually. We didn't know. And at a certain point, it was, "Let's rally around;" a lot of it came from his family saying Paul would want you to finish this and let's make it a tribute to him. And that's exactly what we did. We wanted it to be a tribute to Paul and a sendoff to his character, Brian, that felt like a celebration. So the whole idea of the movie kind of centered around that and the idea of family and loss and new horizons and all sorts of things. But certainly it was a powerful moment for us to realize we were going to have a film that was a swan song for Paul and a celebration and a tribute, a sendoff for his character and how we could all do that in one go. So we just did it really from the most personal, kind of place we all came from with loving the guy and kind of just did it from the heart. Whether or not people would connect to it or not wasn't really the primary thing, we wanted it to be something that the people that really loved Paul and the fans could connect and kind of have a cathartic experience. But we were very surprised at the popular support for the film obviously being so widespread where I think it's double the worldwide box office of the second highest grossing Fast and Furious movie, which was Fast and Furious 6. No one expected that, but I think it's a tribute to Paul more than anything of how people really wanted to go and say goodbye in a way but in a way that was a celebration, which means you do have the fast cars, you do have the crazy chases, and you do have the wild spectacle but at the same time you have the element of what really started with Justin Lin injecting into the storyline as he started doing the film, which is the idea of family and how important that was and I think that ended up setting it up for James Wan to come along and build on that idea. And sure enough the way we felt about the movie as filmmakers and friends of Paul, I think that translated. It seems to have connected.
I was reading reviews that Furious 7 is such a perfect movie and a perfect tribute for Paul Walker and I was like wow, I need to see this.
Yeah, I think that's part of it. The reaction from the initial people that first saw it was so strong. People walked out of the theater feeling, "wow that wasn't just a movie," that it kind of crossed into something else where it was about saying goodbye not just to the character but the man, the actor. And so I think the word of mouth must have brought people - it had to have brought people in that had never seen the series before because just look at the numbers. At $1.5 billion worldwide, was it like 3rd or 4th highest grossing movie of all time right now, it's still out in theaters. There's no possible way that that could just be the core Fast and Furious fans, it must have spread to people who wouldn't normally go and see a Fast and Furious movie and we were all surprised by it. We're happy because it's just given us a better, wider tribute to Paul. And so we're really pleased.
Was there any sort of pressure taking on the sequel to what many consider the franchise that really holds the Marvel Cinematic Universe together?
Yeah, certainly. I think what we were trying to do with this film was that we wanted it to be something that kept the spirit of the first Avengers but then also the movies that came in between Avengers 1 and 2 that have these characters, which were Iron Man 3, Thor: Dark World, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And those three movies in between kind of set up Avengers the sequel. Now the good part about that for me was that I had scored 2/3s of the movies with the Avengers since the Avengers. So with Iron Man and Thor we obviously continued their themes, Captain America bring in his themes, and then of course we wanted to keep something I was really married to, which was the idea of bringing Alan [Silvestri]'s themes from the first Avengers into the new Avengers. So I felt that there were plenty of themes that existed to work with that we should really just do the best job possible for the movie because not only do you have Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor themes, you have the Avengers team theme, which was kind of two themes combined that Alan wrote. But now we had new themes, character themes, that I had to write for the new movie which were Ultron, Black Widow and the Hulk's relationship theme, you have Vision - he needed a theme - which is a new Avenger, and it went on and on. And so the pressure is to raise that bar. I mean the bar is raised anytime you do a sequel, like what are people expecting next? So we wanted to have the language of what Alan had done in the Avengers, what I had done in Thor and Iron Man 3 and to really keep it all in the same musical language but the tell the story of this crazy robot from hell: Ultron.
I really felt like Age of Ultron was more emotional than the original film-should I blame you for why I felt that way?
I think it's probably a combination of everything, but it's certainly something that Joss [Whedon] wanted. I wrote a lot more pieces that were emotional than you would've thought. Pieces between, it's kind of that unrequited romance and this kind of sad situation of Natasha and Banner not being able to really, the curse of the Hulk being a barrier between what they really want. And so that melody, that had to be almost like a lullaby, but broken. And then you have, spoiler alert, the piece with Quicksilver and that's a piece called "Sacrifice," which is on the soundtrack, and you have a fallen soldier here of the Avengers. You have someone here who is clearly going to be an Avenger that's cut short by sacrificing himself, so that piece is very emotional. Then even along the lines of, towards the end of the movie there's a separation of Natasha and Banner and how impactful that is. There's a lot of things going on there that you can go deeper in a second movie because in the first movie you really have to set everyone up and it's "wow there's all these superheroes in the same movie this is so crazy," which had never really been done before on a feature film so I think a lot of the music and a lot of the movie in the first one had to get that out of the way to set up the idea of that and the homestead, Hawkeye and all these different storylines that you only can do once you've established all those characters already.
With even more characters coming into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, do you know if you're involved in any of these movies?
That's something I can never say ahead of time [laughs], but there certainly are a lot of movies coming up and they're going to be awesome-I'll tell you that much.
Would you like to work on any of them?
Yeah, I love working with Marvel they're like a family. Kevin Feige is a great leader there and Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso and Jeremy Latcham, these are people that have similar mindsets in terms of how they see movies. Eric Carrol is another guy there. When you meet someone where you talk about storylines and growing up with comics and a team of people that came from where you came from in terms of how you saw films, what you want films to be like. It's a great team that's over there and I've been very lucky to be a part of it.
Do you know if you'll be working on the sequel for TMNT?
That's something that I love doing and I love Paramount. Jonathan Liebesman directed the first one ... I've known Jonathan for, well I did his first movie, Darkness Falls back 12 years ago or something, and we always worked together and he's working on some other things and he's not going to do the sequel, he's doing something else. I am going to be working with him on that and so I don't think I'll be doing the sequel. But it's certainly something that I absolutely love working on it and also Turtles are something that, I love those guys, I grew up on them. But there's another director now I'm going to keep working with Jonathan. But if somehow the timing is right and the opportunity comes up, it would be fun. I like building on themes that I've worked on before, it's kind of fun. I'm doing that with Now You See Me, and it's always a blast following yourself up. It was fun doing that with Expendables, Final Destination, and all those films. But it's not necessarily everything, schedule and time... there's only so much you can do. But I know about the storyline and what they do in the movie and talk to them, and the movie is going to be awesome I think people are really going to enjoy where they're taking the franchise.
So your next big project is Now You See Me: The Second Act?
That actually comes out in 2016. That's kind of longer term, but I just actually saw some of the movie on Friday and it's awesome. It's really good. The first one was great, they just really have the special, cool feel because they're these tricksters but at first they're on the run and it's a very cool way of following it up.
Then I'm scoring a completely different kind of movie called Truth, which is a political thriller, a true story where Robert Redford is playing Dan Rather and Cate Blanchett plays Mary Mapes the journalist at CBS who broke the Abu Ghraib story. And the investigation that they made of George Bush and it turned out to be a journalistic milestone, but very complex thriller. It's just a very interesting slice of history. So I'm scoring that now. And I'm scoring the theme for USGA which is golf for the US Open that's coming up. We're doing a whole big, old-fashioned theme for it, kind of in the way that I always loved the '84 Olympics theme that John Williams did. We're kind of looking to rebrand or reset what the USGA and the golf tournaments, the emotion of it, and the spectacle, and the pageantry.
Then I do have, I'm teaming up with DJ Caruso for Disappointments Room with the director of Eagle Eye, who is one of my best buddies. He's a great, great guy and great filmmaker. We're doing a thriller. And I'm teaming up with my good friend Keith Power, he's a composer, and we're co-scoring a movie called Criminal which is Ariel Vromen's movie. He directed The Iceman.
These movies could not be any more different, which is fun. Truth being very much a classical, big, political thriller score that has strains of Washington, DC, scandal, but also its journalistic vibe with a military tinge of what's happening in the Iraq War-two completely different things. And then you have Criminal which is completely dark, electronic, minimalist score that has almost industrial, it's all analog, it's all keyboards and instruments that are analog and mono and grungey and strange. And then there's the USGA thing which is a complete throwback to classic, big orchestration with not a hint of anything electronic within a million miles of it. It's nice to be able to work on, especially right after Avengers and Furious 7 to work on these projects that are all completely different, including Now You See Me, which is my love letter to people like Henry Mancini and Lalo Schifrin and that groovy type of score. It's really one of those things as a composer to me it's about the music first and making sure that you're doing something musically on these movies that keeps you interested as a composer. And the way to do that for me is to switch around and change genres constantly so it's always exciting and challenging.
For more information on one of Music Times' favorite film composers, head over to his official website!