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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: 'Terminator Genisys' Composer Lorne Balfe Talks 2015 Movie Score & More!

by Jon Niles   Jul 1, 2015 11:49 AM EDT

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July film preview: Terminator Genisys, Ant-Man and Inside Out

Terminator Genisys is easily one of the most anticipated movies of 2015, hitting theaters this week just ahead of the July 4th weekend. We already know that this film isn't going the usual route we se in Hollywood, avoiding the prequel, sequel and even reboot and remake strategies that are flooding the big screen even as we speak. In Genisys, we get a whole other movie monster that pays tribute to the James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger films in a great new way. In order to really capture the essence of the original blockbusters, director Alan Taylor worked with acclaimed composer Lorne Balfe to introduce us to this original storyline that still holds onto the ideas of the first two movies.

Balfe sat own with Music Times ahead of this movie release to talk about his score for the film and how he made sure to create a musical feel for the audience, bringing them back to the original films while still keeping Genisys in the foreground.

Musically, did you feel any of this pressure on taking on Terminator Genisys, the fifth film in the franchise, which isn't a prequel or sequel, but something completely different?

It's interesting because that's the thing. It's not-it's a Terminator film, it's not a prequel and it's not a sequel. And when watching it-thematically-I think in the last two the themes have kind of been put to the side really. But we know because-especially with this one-when you see it, it's very obvious there are a couple themes which are identical to two-

So musically we wanted to create a score for those themes that were identical really. Now the other thing is that you've got two main themes in Terminator. You've got the main theme and the the famous "da-dum-dum-da-dum" and that kind of the last two series hasn't been as prominent. The thing is to us, when we were spotting it, we wanted to use it as-we wanted to use it and not forget it because you've got Arnold on the screen and especially that main theme that Brad Fiedel had written, it's so iconic. They're both iconic. And I think it's the-I personally think it's saying sometimes when you watch a sequel or watch something that's part of a franchise and the themes aren't the same, especially if it's something so well known. If they made Jaws 4 and they didn't use that famous piece of music, I personally would feel a bit cheated.

We wanted to have a nod to the past but also bring it into the future. It is not a sequel and it is not a prequel, so it had to have a certain identity so that's why we then move on into the different terms, the different themes.

So, you're saying that you kind of had that in mind. Like you definitely wanted to pay tribute to the first two and have the themes come back and that was in your mind the whole time while you were writing?

Well no, because I think what we did was-from watching the film, when you sit down, you spot it before writing. So you sit there and you start figuring out where the music should be, what emotions we're trying to create. So I think that when watching it, we knew where we were going to have the other themes-very clear. And we knew that from then on we knew what the new themes were going to be because it was to do with the guardian theme, the relationship between Arnold's character and Sarah Connor, and we knew that John Connor needed his own theme. And then of course, the love relationship between Kyle and Sarah. So it kind-it's like a late-it's like a puzzle really. Before you start writing, you start already figuring out the bits.


How involved was director Alan Taylor with the music?

Oh, very involved. Directors are always very involved with the music, because they've been creating a film for maybe-living and breathing it for about two or three years normally. And then the composer gets invited in. You're on board for the last two or three months, so really you sit there and you have to start getting into their heads and translating what they've been thinking about. And ideally, it's lovely to be able to start writing music to the scripts before they start filming. But that doesn't always work that way, so Alan would come every-we were having meetings almost every evening nearly, going through the film and I think-before you start doing cues, you have to establish the main theme so you start writing the theme. And then you work with Alan the director and then you work with Rodger [Darton] the editor and the producer. So it's very-it's a very team effort.


How much creative freedom did you have?

Well, it's always creative because the thing is a director doesn't tell you how to write a piece of music. They can't. So what you do, to have 100% creative freedom you should just write a piece of a music for yourself. That's the only way to have 100% because the whole point of what film composers do is to-we're just telling a story-the term is "underscoring." We're underscoring what's happening. Visually and with the narrative. So, it's a case of that they have an idea, you write the scene and then there's sometimes parts of that where they would love to get a bit more emotion from it. So, it's a constant dialogue when writing music for film.


James Cameron recently praised the film, with reports coming out later stating that he wasn't paid to say it, which is apparently part of Hollywood ... How did that feel as someone being involved with the film?

I think it's a very proud thing because I think 1 and 2 to me are just fantastic films, and of course I think that there's always-somebody's always got something negative to say and there's always somebody who's gonna have-"Um, well, there were other motives there," or something. And I think it was good that it didn't need to be cleared up, it just shows you the world we live in. People just obviously always have something to say, but I think it's great because I think this is somebody who's created some of the most pinnacle or most important films of our time really. And to have that nod is always fantastic, because at the end of the day it's like when getting the music-we kind of-you think about the fans. This is such a big franchise, and the fanbase is so loyal and so important to you that, especially when doing the last track for the end credits terminated, it was very important to try to do a variation of the original theme but now. And not change it in a clever way, just make it sonically different than it was so that when the fans heard it they got excited by it.


Is there any piece of your score that you're excited for fans of the series to hear?

Every single second!


[laughs] There we go. 

Not giving too much away, but I think there's a very important part of the story near the end, that I think-it hits most people. And I think we spent a long time musically building to that point, story-wise, and musical-wise. And I think when you see it, it makes sense.

Do you have any other projects that you're working on now or coming out soon?

Yes, next project is Captive, another Paramount film coming out in September with Kate Mara and David Oyelowo.


What was working on that like?

Fantastic! It's a fantastic story, a true story. And David plays the character called Brian Nichols, who is-he was a killer. It's a great story, it's always interesting working on a project that's true because you have a sense of loyalty to it because it was a true story, you kind of don't want to make it grander than it really was if that makes sense.


Do you have any words of advice that you'd want to share with any aspiring composers?

That's a hard one. [Laughs] It's just practice. Just practice. I think there's always-there's an urgency to succeed constantly and an urgency to get projects which aren't necessarily right for them at that period of time. And I think that you-I honestly believe a lot of what happens in life with success is based on luck. When that opportunity comes, you have to be prepared for it. And don't keep going looking for it unless you're ready for it.


For more information on Lorne Balfe and his work, check out his official website right here!

Jon Niles is a contributing features writer for Music Times. He is the Entertainment Section Editor for MStars News as well. Follow Jon on Twitter right here! 

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