Westerberg Reels In Film Work

In the year between finishing his new album and its anticipated release next month, Paul Westerberg has shifted his focus to film. He has been working on songs for the Sony Pictures Animation project

In the year between finishing his new album and its anticipated release next month, Paul Westerberg has shifted his focus to film. He has been working on songs for a Sony Pictures Animation project that he also expects to score.

"I can't talk too much about it," Westerberg tells Billboard.com. "It's just a matter of writing songs for this animated feature called 'Open Season.' It's not slated to be out until, oh I don't know, like 2006 or something. It's way in the future."

The story of a domesticated grizzly bear and a mule deer attempting to elude hunters is based on the work of cartoonist Steve Moore, whose one-panel comic "The Bleachers" is syndicated nationally. Actors Ashton Kutcher, Martin Lawrence and Debra Messing will be among those lending their voices to the film. The feature will be the directorial debut for Jill Culton, who has worked on such animated blockbusters as "Toy Story 2," "A Bug's Life" and "Monsters, Inc."

As he's done with his recent solo projects, Westerberg is writing and recording songs for the film alone in his home basement studio. Although the former Replacements frontman has come to cherish his musical independence of late, he admits that the situation requires a bit more collaboration than he's become accustomed.

"I give them four or five songs and they sort of say what they like and what they can use and how maybe the lyrics should be structured a little different for this [scene]. So," he says, laughing, "I'm taking a little instruction."

It's been more than a decade since Westerberg specifically wrote songs for director Cameron Crowe's classic romantic comedy "Singles," which also scored. Now writing music for films is a career avenue the doting father of a six-year-old son finds attractive.

"I'm thinking I'd like to do that," he says. "I wouldn't like to do that as a regular job and do five movies a year and all that, but it's a viable, I guess, alternative to touring."

Although he's planning to make some appearances in support of his new album "Folker," due Sept. 7 via Vagrant, an extended tour is out of the question. "Those days are over, at least for now, until probably my son gets to the age where he can lift my amps for me," he says with a laugh.

Westerberg has also given Crowe several songs to use in the director's still-in-production film "Elizabethtown." Starring Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon and Alec Baldwin, the feature is due in theaters sometime next year.

Yet another film -- "Aurora Borealis," which stars Joshua Jackson, Donald Sutherland, Louise Fletcher and Juliette Lewis -- may feature "Looking Up In Heaven" or another song from "Folker," as well as pieces of Westerberg's wardrobe.

"One of the side plots or whatever is somebody who moves to Minneapolis to seek me out," he explains. "They wanted me to be in the movie, and I declined, but they persisted to the point where we sent them my shoes and my pants. And I sort of rewrote the last scene for them and they got an actor to wear my clothes and I guess you see the back of his head for a second or something.

"I didn't want to be in it if it was a flop," Westerberg says. "I didn't want to necessarily be in it if it was incredibly successful [either], because then it would have brought every lunatic out... You know, 'Come find Paul!'"