Earlier this year it was suddenly announced that Johann Johansson had been replaced as the composer on Blade Runner 2049 by Hans Zimmer. If this had happened to any other member of the film’s cast and crew then there would have been endless uproar and speculation.
But it is just par for the course as a composer. In fact, Hans Zimmer once told Junkie XL after he was fired and Danny Elfman hired on “Justice League,” “You haven’t made it in Hollywood as a composer until you get replaced on a project.”
Last month I had the opportunity to talk to legendary Hollywood composer, and Academy Award nominee, Carter Burwell at the Hamptons International Film Festival about the rivalry and camaraderie that exists in the community of composers. After I told Burwell, whose films “Goodbye Christopher Robin” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” were playing at the festival, about the above quote he opened up about how it feels when you are actually replaced on a film.
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“It is a complex question. He is absolutely right that at some point we have all had our score thrown out and been replaced by somebody. That’s a rite of passage. But you can’t help but take it personally because you have put your heart and soul into this thing. But at the same time it is a business, so you can’t hold it against another composer.”
However, it was at this point that Burwell revealed a different aspect to the rivalry between composers, one that often leads to them suing each other.
“But there is another aspect to it. When they are cutting a film they will often put in a temp score, where they take music from other films and throw it in there. Film editors like that because it gives them a pace to cut to. Directors like that because they can get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. They can sometimes live with that temp score for months.”
“There is a tendency, that might be too weak a word, for them to think that the real music has to sound exactly like the temp score. Because they have got so used to it, they have got a feel for it. So another aspect of the community of composers is that people are constantly being asked to do something that sounds like someone else’s music from the temp score.”
“So people are constantly suing each other because they were forced to copy someone else’s score. It is not their fault. The director told them to. So it is a complex thing. I haven’t been sued myself. And I haven’t sued anyone. But it is extremely common.”
While Burwell's conscience is clear, "Logan’s" Marco E. Beltrami, Hans Zimmer over "Gladiator," and even Ray Parker Jr for the "Ghostbusters" theme song, who was sued by the one and only Huey Lewis, are just three examples of composers and musicians that have been taken to court after working on the music for a movie.