You may not know seasoned film and TV composer David Arnold from first glance, but odds are you have heard his incredible work. Arnold is the mastermind behind some of the greatest film and television scores in the industry, including “Sherlock,” “Independence Day” and no fewer than five James Bond movies. Arnold’s latest project, Amazon’s new miniseries “Good Omens,” is certainly one for the books. The series is based on the 1990 novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and follows the story of a demon and angel who must become accustomed to life on Earth to prevent the coming of the antichrist and, ultimately, Armageddon. Arnold sat down with Metro to discuss his career, his process when composing masterpieces and why he fell in love with “Good Omens” in the first place.
How did you first get involved with composing for films and television?
I think I always wanted to do it. I went to see a bunch of films when I was about 7 or 8 years old at the cinema, and all of the films were extraordinary in everything including their massive soundtracks. Within a week I had been exposed to these extraordinary things in a cinema where everything is overwhelming, especially if you’re little. All of a sudden you’re in this place where it’s loud and dark, you feel this sort of excitement. There’s just so much joy in that experience and there is so much purpose and satisfaction in the end. I knew from that point on that I wanted to be a part of something that made me feel like that.
What’s your process like when writing for a project?
I don’t want to start writing anything until I’ve seen something. I’ve had many discussions with directors and producers, and I’ve read scripts and then I’ve seen the films. Sometimes when I see the films it isn’t how I imagined it or how I thought it might be or it isn’t quite what we discussed. Films take on a life of their own and they have a kind of sense of self and urgency. It’s suddenly out of the writer’s hands when everyone has input and opinions. Sometimes your job is to make sure it doesn’t veer off course. You have to deliver what you think [the project] needs. You have to try and deliver answers to the questions that the film or show is asking. So I will read the script because I think you’re mad not to read the script. What if you hate the script? Why would you even do the film then? So I try to do that, to get a sense of if I like it, and if it’s something I think I can do. I also want to like the people I’m doing it with. That’s important, when you feel in sync with the people you work with. You certainly don’t want to be doing something seven days a week and just do it to get it across the finish line.
Now jumping to “Good Omens,” what was the inspiration behind composing the score for Amazon’s new miniseries?
The inspiration for this is the picture itself and the story, it’s what made me go, “I have to do this.” I went to the first table reading and the first draft and it’s just an extraordinary group of people. I just had an understanding of the show and what it meant and what I was trying to do. It felt like a gig where there was a lot of connections, and everyone’s purpose was the same and we all knew why we were there.
You say you need to love a project to get involved. What do you love about “Good Omens”?
Regardless of the fact that it goes from the beginning of time to the end of time and takes place on Earth, [and in] heaven and hell, I think it is a story of true friendship and love between people. Amongst all of the insanity and the laughs and the drama and the excitement and the sheer oddness of everything that happens, I think at its heart it’s a story of two people who don’t necessarily belong in the world but find a place in the world with each other. I think that has spoken to a lot of people about navigating your way through life in a world that can be unpredictable. On top of all of that, I think it’s a visual feast and holds some extraordinary performances.