'Rush' Composers Discuss High-Octane Soundtrack @ Billboard/THR Film & TV Music Conference

From left: Music producer Peter Asher, composer Lorne Balfe, session moderator Melinda Newman and composer Hanz Zimmer

A Turner Archives

The team behind the score of the adrenaline-fueled, car-racing film “Rush” revealed what it took to create the soundtrack behind one of the most successful independent releases this year.
 
In a case study discussion around the music of “Rush,” moderated by former Billboard west coast bureau chief Melinda Newman, composers Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe and music producer Peter Asher gave a behind the scenes look at the $25 million domestic box office indie hit.
 
Hans said he could not emphasize enough how much the collaborative process was made easier by everyone’s passion, including Ron Howard who directed the film about Formula One car racing in 1976.

“What could be better in life than hanging with your mates … hanging out with a director completely into telling a great story,” Hans said during a panel at the two-day Billboard/Hollywood Reporter TV & Film Conference that kicked off Tuesday (Oct. 29). “Ron did not need to do an indie movie.”
 
The film, written by Peter Morgan, is centered around the rivalry between racers Niki Lauda and James Hunt who knew each other through car racing circuits in England. Zimmer composed the soundtrack which includes music by David Bowie, Steve Winwood and Mud.
 
All three panelists remarked that Howard’s ability to keep cool and focused even when the composers improvised was essential in helping to develop the unique sound of the film.
 
“Scoring things too tight makes it suffocating,” said Balfe. “The great thing is that with Ron we can improvise and it stays.”
 
While the film’s composers spent a considerable amount of time researching the music of the ‘70s, the goal wasn’t necessarily to create a 1976 rock score. Instead, it was more important to “embrace the spirit of the recklessness,” Hans said, adding that the score is very much guitar driven, which helps the film achieve high emotional points.
 
Understanding each other, Hans said, was as integral as trusting each other. For example, Asher “doesn’t work like a music supervisor. [He works more] like a record producer … and is very much involved with artists.”

 
One of the film’s most illuminating qualities is that it shifts stylistically, which is unorthodox, Hans says, adding that the movement of music in just two seconds can evoke a completely different emotion.
 
“Moviemaking is about everyone rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty,” Hans said.
 
When asked what he loved most about making the movie, composer Zimmer said, “It wasn’t the Lone Ranger,” referring to the film starring Johnny Depp that bombed at the box office this year. The crowd roared in laughter.

The Billboard/Hollywood Reporter Film And TV Music Conference continues on Oct. 30. A full schedule of panels can be viewed here.