Trent Reznor Talks Scoring David Fincher's 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo'

by Edward Davis
January 9, 2011 7:33 AM
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Reznor Says He & Atticus Ross Have Already Written 2 Hours of Music; Are Striving To Create Their "Own Sonic World"



As recently discussed, Trent Reznor confirmed to New York Times music critic Jon Pareles in a public Q&A that he would be scoring, yes along with Atticus Ross, David Fincher's upcoming film, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara; it's already due in theaters December 21 later this year.

The audio has been sent to us and we're trying to upload it now, but it's big and looong, so here are some highlights. In the Q&A with the NYT's Pareles, Reznor reiterated that at first he turned down Fincher's offer to score "The Social Network" because of prior commitments, regretted it, called back months later after the film had been shot and discovered, much to his relief, that the director was waiting there with open arms. Reznor actually played the opening clip of "The Social Network" to the audience as it was originally played to him using Elvis Costello's new-wave-y, slightly dark, and forward-moving "Beyond Belief" (from Imperial Bedroom) and this track helped inform his score, which was to go in a totally opposite direction. "I thought it seemed wrong," Reznor said of the Costello placed normally where the polar opposite "Hand Covers Bruise" now plays. Reznor described the process of writing 'The Social Network' and the self-imposed rules and limitations they gave themselves after agreeing to score the film.

"Fincher had given us a list of what he had hoped to get from ['The Social Network' score; he wanted it to be electronic, he didn't want to use an orchestra, and he wanted it to have an iconic nature where it felt unto itself - like 'Blade Runner' [music] feels like it's from 'Blade Runner,' it has its own identity," he said. "So our strategy was: we [did what we always do] before any major project: be very cerebral and think about what it is that we want to accomplish and about the best method of how we're going to execute that... really just thinking about how we envision the end results sounding and then coming up with some limitations as to how we might achieve that."

Reznor noted that while the film is superficially about Facebook, it's actually about a flawed character trying to achieve something so potentially huge that it could validate his existence and how the pursuit of that idea costs him friendship, relationships and much more. "That's what the story was about to us," Reznor said, noting that's the emotional thread the musicians picked up on.

Towards the end of "The Social Network" scoring process -- which takes up around 30 minutes of an hour and a half conversation -- Pareles asked Reznor if film scoring would be a new avenue for him, to which he responded, "Well, I'm happy to announce that for the last month or so we've been scoring 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,' " to which the audience reacted with loud applause.

"This one's a bit different [of a process]," he said. "Well, different in some ways. The film is coming out Christmas of this year and they're still doing principal photography. So, I had read the book, I had not got the script yet and I heard a few buzz words like 'ice' and Fincher writing [to me], 'I can't write anymore my fingers are frozen.' And we spent -- Atticus and I are going to work on this again -- three weeks generating, with a new set of rules, it was completely blind with no feedback from David, stuff that I though would be helpful for them to have. Because the David work is that he's the hi-tech guy of filmmaking and when he's shooting digitally it's also being sent back to his editors, and within a couple of days he can see mock-ups of scenes he just shot. And those guys are always looking for temp music to put in there, so I thought it would be a nice present to have -- we sent them two hours of music.

Reznor revealed that one of his original plans was to unveil some of the new work-in-progress 'Dragon Tattoo' score to the NYT audience, but his mother passed away unexpectedly last week and that idea was nixed.

"The music is coming great for it. [The new parameters are]... we started recording things in a different way that was all based on performance, nothing programmed. And that would be my limited skills at stringed instruments, and trying passages that we would get that and then we would process them in a way that would give us a real organic, layered feel that felt like something we'd never done before."

The Nine Inch Nails frontman then related a story about working on The Downward Spiral -- originally conceived to be a guitar-heavy record -- but then the arrival of new samplers gave Reznor the inspiration to try something completely different, moving into a collage-based format and abandon the original idea. "What we're doing with 'Dragon Tattoo,' we stumbled into the very same thing. Now this is at a very early stage where Fincher or the picture could require something much different, once I see what's actually happening. But the bones of it... I heard Atticus say this the other day in an interview, and he was describing what we were attempting to do with 'The Social Network' [score] as 'to create our own world sonically' -- much like the way Fincher said he wanted the film to have the same [aural unique and instant recognition] feeling of 'Blade Runner,' like, 'oh that's from that thing.' So we're striving to do the same with 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' and the research we've done, the results we have so far feel like it's really like that."

Sounds fantastic. December can't arrive soon enough.

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