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Idris Elba

Idris Elba: “The process is like a jigsaw puzzle”

October 5, 2022

Mr. Elba, you’ve played a diverse range of characters throughout your career, from The Wire’s Stringer Bell to Nelson Mandela in Long Walk to Freedom. How have you ensured such a broad range of roles?

Playing Stringer Bell put me on the map as an actor in America. I had worked in England and I had done decent work, but getting a role on The Wire expanded me into the US in a way that I couldn’t have hoped for! And after that, I continued to get better, bigger roles; I got to work with some really good people. So The Wire really shifted my career massively. But I should be adapting and trying different things, and I think throughout my career, I’ve dodged the bullet of, “Oh, you were great as this role, we would love to see you play that role again.” I have been offered roles that feel very similar to other work I’ve done, and I have definitely tried to avoid those. It can be difficult for my fanbase, they are always surprised! (Laughs) And whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, I’m not sure.

I am pretty sure that’s a good thing…

At the moment, for me, it’s more about who is making the film, who is the storyteller, is it something that I have done before or not? Those are the decisions I make. I am really open, there’s no role that I wouldn’t consider, but at the same time, if I am working with a filmmaker, that is a long time to spend with someone, so I have to think about what I’m going to learn from that process.

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David Newman

David Newman: “You’re bonded to it”

September 28, 2022

Mr. Newman, as a film composer, your philosophy is that “the film itself is king.” What does that mean exactly?

The thing about film is that it’s organic during the making of it; it changes, things happen, but once it's done, once you're scoring it, it doesn't work with you. You have to work with it. You're collaborating with a medium and not with people. By the time you get to postproduction and editing, and its ready to be scored, you're simply trying to give it what it's asking for, you’re trying to provide what's helping the story. So the music is just a small part of it. It's a fascinating part of it, it's probably the least understood part of it — because music is really hard to understand anyway, even for musicians.

You were nominated for an Oscar for your soundtrack to Anastasia, and worked on over 100 films including Heathers, Ice Age, and Spielberg's West Side Story. Is it challenging to tell someone else’s story through your music? 

Well, you have to follow the film, and generally, it's not that complicated. It's easy to see what doesn't work. We all understand stories, and the music needs to be in service of that story, otherwise, there's no point in putting in the music. Film isn’t even 100 years old, so before 1930, there was nothing like it. The people that started writing film music in the 1930s — my father Alfred Newman included, but also Max Steiner, Franz Waxman, Dimitri Tiomkin — they were trying to figure out how you put music in a film when there's talking. The questions they were asking themselves: what is music doing? Why is it there? How much should it be there? Those are the same questions we are still asking ourselves as composers.