All Ennio Morricone asked of Quentin Tarantino, after committing to score his new Western, “The Hateful Eight,” was that the director feature his music prominently and give it the space needed to convey its message.
Given how Tarantino feels about the award-winning composer, he hardly needed to ask.
“Ennio Morricone, as far as I am concerned, is my favorite composer,” Tarantino said onstage as he accepted the 87-year-old Morricone’s third Golden Globe Award for best original score. “When I say ‘favorite composer,’ I don’t mean movie composer. ... I’m talking about Mozart, I’m talking about Beethoven, I’m talking about Schubert.”
Getting Morricone to score “The Hateful Eight” was a coup for Tarantino, who tried before to get a soundtrack out of the prolific Italian composer. Some of Tarantino’s films, like “Kill Bill: Vol. 2” and “Django Unchained,” have featured existing music that Morricone originally composed for movies directed by Sergio Corbucci, Don Siegel and Sergio Leone in the 1960s.
Morricone’s music played a central role in the cinematic experience of Leone spaghetti Westerns like “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and “A Fistful of Dollars,” and it’s similarly front-and-center in “The Hateful Eight,” which also earned Morricone an Oscar nomination.
In Tarantino’s hands, Morricone’s music gets a starring role, serving as a narrator that helps move the story along, foreshadowing coming plot twists and accentuating the building suspense.
“The duration of the music piece inside the film is paramount for the mission of the film and the music score,” Morricone said. “If you just have 30 seconds, the music cannot play its role, which is to express what you cannot see and hear through the images and dialogue.”
Morricone spoke to The Associated Press, via a translator, from his home in Rome. His remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Do you have a general process that you go through when you decide to score a film?
Sometimes I discuss it with the director when the movie is just an idea, and in this way, I can even contribute my own ideas. But it depends on the kind of approach of the director.
In the case of Tarantino, he came to me after filming, when the movie had already been shot. I told him, if there is going to be a next time — a next film with Quentin Tarantino and Ennio Morricone — I would like to start discussing the music beforehand, when you have the first idea of the film so I can really make a full contribution with my music.
Some are calling this your first score for a Western film in more than 40 years, but in recent interviews, you’ve said you don’t consider “The Hateful Eight” a true Western. As someone who helped define the genre almost half a century ago, could you explain what constitutes a true Western film?
What I consider a true Western film contains adventure and drama, set in a very specific geographic location, with prairies ... horses and guns. This is what makes a Western film a Western film. In the case of “The Hateful Eight,” we have the cowboy hats and the guns, but we also have the presence of snow and the fact that almost all the film takes place in the same location and the same interior. This does not make it a Western movie, in my opinion. In fact, when I read the script, I never thought that this would be a Western movie.
You’ve scored so many films. How do you stay so prolific?
I started as an arranger ... writing pop songs. I started working on very easy kinds of music pieces for the radio, for television and then for the theater and then little by little I started to compose the film scores. All these experiences added together with my studies — because you can’t forget that I followed all the studies that a real classic composer has to follow — led me to be so prolific, so fresh and so original over the years.
What drew you to film composition?
I must say that I have never looked for a particular kind of job assignment. It was the other way around. People called me to do something. It was the case for the pop songs, and then for the radio and then for the television and then for the theaters and last, but not least, for the cinema. So maybe it’s that the people who called me, the producers and the filmmakers, they understood that I could be a good composer for film.