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From The Simpsons through to Tim Burton's latest movie Big Eyes, Danny Elfman is one of Hollywood's most in-demand composers. Here are a selection of facts about some of his most cherished scores.
Born in Los Angeles in 1953, Danny Elfman originally had no intentions of being a composer. “If you’d have asked me when I was 17 or 18-years-old what I wanted to be," he has said, "I may have said cinematographer or maybe a director…but I never would have said music; that was quite accidental.” As lead singer and songwriter for the new wave band Oingo Boingo, his big break came with Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, his first collaboration with director Tim Burton.
This where it all began for Danny Elfman. Directed by Anthony Page, the film - based on the Joanne Greenberg novel of the same name - saw a special cameo from The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, featuring Elfman, who appear as extras in the movie.
Much like that other great collaboration between composer and director, Spielberg and Williams, Danny Elfman has been Tim Burton's partner in crime for more than three decades - with only a brief falling out eight years in. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure was the director's feature debut. Elfman said he had the film's theme written before he had officially signed up for it.
Elfman may have composed more than 75 film scores, each one taking months, but he claims that the piece for which he may be best remembered is the work that literally took him one day - the theme tune for possibly the most successful TV show of all time. "That's probably what they'll put on my gravestone," says Elfman, "'He wrote the Simpsons.'"
Tim Burton's Batman was the biggest film Elfman had worked on in terms of budget and scale. Despite initial nerves at rising to the task, Elfman went on to compose one of his most menacing and celebrated scores.
Elfman cites his work on his fourth collaboration with Tim Burton as his most personal and favorite work. It certainly reinforced his trademark style of swirling strings and ethereal wordless vocals. The orchestra consisted of 79 musicians.
Warren Beatty hired Danny Elfman to compose the film score for Dick Tracy based on the composer's previous success with Tim Burton's Batman in 1989. Madonna sang five specially composed Stephen Sondheim songs in the movie too.
Danny Elfman had a significantly more hands-on role for Henry Selick's stop-motion animation classic. Not only did he compose the songs, but he also assisted Tim Burton with the storyline AND provided the singing voice for the lead character Jack Skellington as well as the voices for Barrel and "Clown with the Tear-Away Face"
Danny Elfman and Tim Burton made up with each other for Mars Attacks after falling out for almost three years following The Nightmare Before Christmas. As with Dick Tracy, Elfman enlisted the help of Oingo Boingo lead guitarist Steve Bartek to help arrange the compositions for the orchestra.
Although the iconic theme remained in Brian De Palma’s action-packed reboot of the popular spy series, Danny Elfman was brought in to write incidental music. He replaced Alan Silvestri, who left over creative differences.
Elfman earned his first Academy Award nomination in 1998 for his score to Good Will Hunting. Directed by art-house director Gus Van Sant, the film would also bring the film's stars and scriptwriters Matt Damon and Ben Affleck to international fame and success.
The same year that Elfman's score for Good Will Hunting was nominated for Best Original Dramatic Score at the Oscars, the composer's work for Men In Black was also nominated in the Best Original Musical or Comedy Score category. Elfman went on to write the music for Men In Black's two sequels.
Elfman was originally hired to write the music for a version of Planet of the Apes by director Adam Rifkin in 1989, but the production fell through. Twelve years later he was hired for Tim Burton's 'reimagining' of the series in 2001. Although not the most successful of Burton's films, it does contain one of Elfman's most exciting scores, with pounding percussion throughout.
Elfman was awarded a Saturn Award for his thrilling score for Spiderman in 2002. He also composed the music for Spiderman 2. However, after falling out with director Sam Raimi, Elfman played a lesser role in Spider Man 3, collaborating with composer Christopher Young throughout.
After The Simpsons, Elfman's other big TV exposure came from ABC's smash hit, Desperate Housewives. The composer has been awarded both an Emmy and the BMI TV Music Award for his theme.
Danny Elfman's most recent Oscar nomination was for his work on Milk. Starring Sean Penn as the gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, the film reunited Elfman with director Gus Van Sant for the first time since Good Will Hunting in 1997.
Tim Burton's Dark Shadows was an adaptation of a gothic soap opera broadcast on TV during the 60s and 70s. The show developed a cult following in the USAand Elfman paid homage to the original series in his score, borrowing motifs from music originally written by Robert Cobert.
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