Poor, unsuspecting Shaiman agreed to an interview. I typed up the questions and sent them to him. He answered. He sent them back. Letters. Words. Paragraphs.
Some stuff was edited out. Enjoy:
Hello Mr. Shaiman and thank you for the interview. I wanted to say that before beginning.
Call me Marc ... you're welcome ... hurry up.
Before I get to the rejected scores stuff, Marc ... I was browsing through your imdb.com listing to make sure I ask some interesting questions, and I saw that your first listed project was a 1987 TV program, "Billy Crystal: Don't Get Me Started - The Lost Minutes". Assuming that was your first scoring project, what was it like?
It was a wonderful experience. Playing for the concert section allowed me to accompany Billy to moscow which was fascinating. Billy Crystal has always been VERY nurturing towards me, and that special was the real first time I had the chance to compose for film. And it was upon seeing that show (combined with the work I had just done on "WHEN HARRY MET SALLY" as an arranger) that led to Rob Reiner asking me to score "MISERY", which was a hell of a ballsy thing for him to do.
I see that you have worked a lot with Billy Crystal; how did this come about?
When Billy was on Saturday Night Live, the musical director was an extremely talented musician (Tom Malone, current T'bone player on Letterman) who played EVERY instrument EXCEPT piano. So, luckily for me, they would call me in whenever they needed a funny Jewish piano player for musical ideas proposed by the cast. I hit it off right away with Billy and Martin Short, and they are still 2 of my closest friends (and collaborators) today.
Can I assume it will be a continuous partnership with Crystal in future movies with him?
Further inspection turned out that you were a writer on Saturday Night Live. What was that all about?
See above. After working as a freelance arranger for them, they finally just hired me full time. "The Sweeney Sisters" were my contribution to the legacy of SNL.
I saw you on The 76th Annual Academy Awards, I think it was, were after Billy Crystal thanked you for the music and the camera went on you and you blew it kisses. Do you like the camera? Have you wanted to be on TV and in movies, besides playing a pianist?
I LOVE the camera, and it loves me!! I am a big ham, and would be just as happy if half the work I did was performing.
I would like to ask a few miscellaneous questions before getting to the film score questions.
Indeed. Is there any dream project you have wanted to score? An epic? Or something.
Nah ... well, big glorious musicals, obviously.
Who are your favorite composers?
I like 'em all!
I like 'em all, but if pressed, I DID listen to my "CLOSE ENCOUNTERS" CD for about a million times the year it came out. Otherwise, I am most enraptured by scores of older films, classic films like "ALL ABOUT EVE", things of that nature. Sly, witty and theatrical. Can you say "gay"?
I wouldn't. Is there any CD you can stop playing? I know myself and other score fans get stuck on something and can't stop playing it.
Okie dokie, now onto score questions. You have scored a few Billy Crystal movies and among those were both City Slickers movies, which featured nice big orchestras with some western and funny stuff. Was it fun working on a project like that? Would you score City Slickers 3: Beating A Dead Horse?
I loved working on those films and finding my inner manly man.
"South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut". You scored it. It was hilarious and your score was excellent! What was it like scoring that movie?
A dream come true. Composing music, writing lyrics, scoring, singing, orchestrating, arranging ... I was in heaven
Sister Act. Why in the world? Why?! Nothing against you, I just can't imagine a composer wanting to do that.
Hey, fuck you man!! (I mean good-naturedly), I love "Sister Act". And "scoring" the movie was hardly the main event there, it was my work as music supervisor and arranger that was the attraction. And it is one of the few movie music jobs I can actually take a compliment on, since I think it was clearly the musical numbers with the nuns that put that movie over, and that was all me baby!!
Tom Malone, Hummie Mann, Mark McKenzie, Joel Moss, Jimmy Vivino and you all listed as orchestrators on Sister Act. Why so many? I saw the movie as few times and there doesn't appear to be much score at all. Was must of the score not used, or songs replacing them. What's the deal?
I can't remember that far back, but that included the performances and at the time, for whatever reason, I spread the work out among many.
I now will move into rejected scores, saving Team America for last. "Honeymoon In Vegas". What happened there?
The movie sorta sucked and they blamed my music at a screening that didn't go well. It was the first final mix I was not part of and I myself was HORRIFIED when I heard it at the screening. A terrible mix, a real lesson in how a bad mix affects a film. I had a billion notes which were moot after they decided to re-score. I went to see the film when it opened, figuring it would be a fantastic lesson, getting to see how someone else approached a movie I knew frame by frame. Unfortunately, the score sounded just like what I had done (stylistically speaking), and I didn't learn anything except that it all means nothing!
How much did you record for the movie (If anything)?
What did it sound like, since we'll probably never hear it?
Next one, brace yourself: "What's the Worse That Could Happen?" (Besides being asked a bunch of questions about your involvement). It is said that some of your score is still in the movie, true?
"It is said", you make it sound like my career is some kind of bible epic. Well, it was simply a hideous movie, they knew it, they hoped that tossing out a "real" score and throwing songs and wall paper hip hop tracks was going to hip up a lame-ass film. They then tried to screw me out of my payment, which was outrageously ugly.
How much did you record?
The whole friggin' score.
What did it sound like?
Music. Notes. Chords. Rhythms.
What do you think of Tyler Bates, the replacement composer, work?
I learned my lesson on "Honeymoon In Vegas", and never went to see the movie after my horrible experience.
Okay, now I move onto the messy debacle called "The Cat In The Hat". What happened there? I read that you left the movie. And it seems at least two of your songs are still in it and on the CD. What gives?
Scott & I wrote 2 fabulous, joyful, witty songs for it, right after HAIRSPRAY opened on Broadway. The made us rewrite them ENDLESSLY, pretty much killing the joy we brought to them and then only ended up filming one, and quite badly at that. A truly depressing experience. Then, after learning that Mike Myers had taken over the editing room, I had my agent inform them that I had no intention of writing one score for the directors taste, another for the editors taste, and yet another for Mike Myers' tastes. They agreed and paid me off in full and I LOVE Universal pictures!!!!
"The Cat In The Hat" has a shady composer history. First Randy Newman was onboard, then reportedly Thomas Newman, then you were onboard and seemed to actually do some stuff and then David Newman. Damn, it seems everybody but Joey Newman had a shot. Do you know anything about this composer merry-go-round?
Okay, switching gears back to the general questions: How much, if anything, did you record in the way of score only? And did any of it appear in the movie? What did it sound like?
Luckily never had to write a note of score, but the song writing process was painful enough to merit sympathy and pity.
Now to an odd one: "The Kid". I have read a few times that Goldsmith only did synth mock ups and that he didn't record any score, but then I read this, ex cerpted for you: "...a low-key, dramatic score by Goldsmith was junked in favor or a more uptempo comedic one by Marc Shaiman at the last minute."
So I was wondering if you know anything different?
I think Jerry 'only' did synth mockups. That was hellish, writing a score in 2 weeks, but I still have a fabulous friendship with the director Jon Turtletaub, who is a great, funny guy. Jerry Goldsmith did not deserve having to go through that process and it is a shame he had to endure that and so many other wasteful time-eating experiences like that.
What was it like, knowing that you were called in to replace one of the most liked, most amazing and prophetic film composer to have ever lived? Were you daunted?
It only proved more than ever that the day of film composers being a highly respected group was HISTORY.
Was this the first time you ever replaced a composer on a film? If not, can you name the times so I can update my website?
First and last.
And in case I missed any, are these the only times you have had a score tossed, or half it junked and another composer come in?
No, I think you've covered them all!
And now we move onto the dreaded "Team America: World Police" Q & A. I was so excited to learn you were scoring it, after I found out it was another film by the creators of South Park. You scored the South Park movie and I have really grown to love that score. Comedy Central plays it a lot lately. You wrote in your BLOG at the Team America website how happy you were and about the score and not having any directors telling you what to do and then suddenly two weeks before the movie premieres, your gone and Harry Gregson-Williams and about 6 other composers come on board to make a hasty score. What the fuck was that about? I boycotted the movie because of your rejection.
To make a long story short, they COMPLETELY eliminated post production to rush the films into theatres for the 2 weeks before election day. So...Trey NEVER had time to EVER hear A NOTE that I was writing because he was still editing and rewriting and RE-SHOOTING (!) the movie. So, when he heard my score, he thought it was too playful and that he wanted it to be even more wallpapery, like "just give me 5 minutes of battle music, 5 minutes af sad music, etc...."
If I had to do it all over again, I would have not had them send me ANY footage, I would have just written pure stock music. I wish you had paid to see the film, because as a favor to my "friends", I took a low upfront fee with payments then based on box-office, so I REALLY took a bath on that one!!
Some of your songs are still in the film and there were plans to release a score/song CD, even after you were let go. Then the CD came out, with a slightly different tracklist then the original and no composer credited. We later found out if was Gregson-Williams. What happened to your CD release? Has it just been pushed back so not to hurt the current film? Assuming studios are so worried about us less than 10,000 film score loving fans so much that they try to stay on our good side.
What are you, a dumb-dumb? They released the CD with the score that made it into the movie. I hardly co-wrote any songs, just one, (EVERYONE HAS AIDS) and even that I was more just the guy at the piano, Trey knew just what he wanted when he came over to write that. (He didn't understand the question and never made a reply about that.)
What was your score like? Your BLOG gave some hint, but I would love to hear your own words on it.
Music. Notes. Chords. Rhythms.
How much did you record? Were you able to do the whole thing before being let go?
Almost the entire thing. I had to record an entire day KNOWING they were gonna toss it, THAT was a PAINFUL, PAINFUL day.
Will you ever score another Matt Parker and Trey Stone movie?
I see you have "Hairspray" and "Rumor Has It", listed on imdb.com as your future projects. Is that it for now, or is there anything else coming up we should know of?
I recently had a lovely meeting with the nice people at Pixar and that's all I can say.
Any cues from any of your un-used scores, or by themselves, on CD?
Gathering dust in my garage, I suppose. Where they shall stay. Like Catherine Deneauve's past lovers in THE HUNGER!
Without first being heard connected to the scenes/films they were written for, I have no interest at all in these tossed scores being put out there. They are sad reminders of wasted months and since I write music to work WITH the picture (or "mickey mousing" as that one ass wrote), I am unconcerned with any score being heard without the benefit of getting a chance to see what it was written FOR. So, in the garage they will stay!
It's a pity. If you're still with me after 37 questions, I now move on to the final round and miscellaneous questions. First off the list of stock questions: What made you want to go into the world of film music?
I have always enjoyed and been good at putting music to action, whether it was my cat walking in the room when I was 8 or some starlet walking across screen when I was 40.
Stock questions number 2: Whose work has inspired you the most?
Too numerous to mention. I refuse to put up boundaries when it comes to music, so I love it all. What's not to love about any kind of music??
Over the last decade movies have gotten really bad and as a result, some scores have gotten bad. What are your feelings on the current state of the movie industry and the scores being turned out?
Films and their scores are just xeroxes of xeroxes of xeroxes of copies of copies. My score to TEAM AMERICA was tossed because my personality came across. God Forbid!!
Do you ever join fellow film scores fans on any of the websites like Movie Music, or Film Score Monthly? Hide under a false name, or something.
No, I used to enjoy harassing the geeks at FSM, but that got dull. They never liked me. Awwwwwwww.
Who are your favorite film music composers? Living or dead.
What do you do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies? Am I getting too personal?
It's music/lyrics and arranging here, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I can't do anything else.
Stock Question #5: In a case where your score has been rejected, have you ever looked closely at the alternative score the film makers favored and assessed if it actually is a better score for the film? Are there cases where you feel the film makers or the replacement composer fundamentally missed opportunities or the point of the film?
See above. I HONESTLY believe my Team America score was good for the film, but if the director doesn't agree, what the fuck do I know?
Stock time!: Do you ever at times use your music to comment on how you see the film in a way that is quite different to what the director intended? If you do, can you discuss an example and whether the film maker saw the scene in a new light because of your insight? After hearing your music in it.
Not really, I've never gotten to score a film that had that kind of ambiguity. I DID choose to score a cattle stampede with gospel music in "CITY SLICKERS", which happened by accident when I was doodling around with the film on pause, and when it clicked into play as I was wailing away acting like Aretha Franklin, it looked right. But that was a billion years ago, no one cares!
Don't blink, another one. Joy!: Sometimes scenes in a film get tracked over with a song, I can think of an example in "Austin Powers" where George Clinton's big action piece to the fight scene in the end was tracked over with a song, "Secret Agent Man". How do you feel about that? Has that ever happened to you?
See "WHAT'S THE WORSE THAT CAN HAPPEN". (Lord knows I'M not gonna)
Okay, since you were so kind to bare with me for 47 questions, here are what fans want to know:
And finally, if there are any thoughts you would like to share before I bring this novel to an end, please feel free to speak your mind.
You have robbed me of the power of thought. It will take me days to recover from this interview. Thank You.
Thank you again Mr. Shaiman. I look forward to your future projects.
You are quite welcome. Nurse, it's time for a sponge bath!
(I asked about Disney's The Emporer's New Groove and all he said: "Oh, yes, well, I completely forgot about The Emperor's New Groove. Thanks for reminding me!"
Visit Marc Shaiman's website
Published: November, 2004 (approximated month as I misplaced the date it went online)