All change in the recording studio as Bond franchise gets a new composer for Skyfall


When production of the 23rd movie in the James Bond series began, many made the not unreasonable assumption that long time collaborator David Arnold would once again provide the score.  Having worked with the franchise for 14 years and provided the soundtrack for five 007 adventures, Arnold seemed like the obvious choice to compose the music for the new movie, Skyfall.

However, on 9th January 2012, Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli announced that American composer Thomas Newman was to score the 23rd James Bond film.

Commenting on the decision to halt their 14 year association with Arnold, Wilson and Broccoli said: “We are delighted to confirm that Thomas Newman will score Skyfall. Thomas is one of the most respected and successful composers, he has a long history of working with Sam Mendes and we look forward to welcoming him into the Bond family.”

So, with a change of composer for the first time since Tomorrow Never Dies, what can Bond fans expect?

Arnold ‘looking forward to watching Skyfall as a fan’

Having scored more Bond films than anyone except the late John Barry, David Arnold has contributed a huge amount to the Bond series over the last 14 years.  From his early days with the Shaken and Stirred project, his increasing use of electronica in The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day and his reinvention of the traditional orchestral Bond sound over the last two films, Arnold has created some of the finest film music in recent years.

So, it was something of a surprise to many that director Sam Mendes has elected to hire another composer – although not to Arnold himself.  And, the 49 year old debunked rumours that part of the reason for a change of composer was because of his role as Music Director of the London Olympic and Paralympic closing ceremonies.

Speaking via his Twitter account, Arnold said: “I’ve known since June…Sam and I talked about it and I said I am very much of the opinion that a director should have who they want.

“And fully expected Tom to be doing the film. Couldnt tweet about it as contracts weren’t finalised until recently…but it’s all very good.”

If a director is going to pick a musical collaborator that they trust, then perhaps it is little surprise that Newman is on board for Skyfall.  The 56 year old American has scored all but one of Mendes’ previous films including American Beauty, The Road to Perdition and Revolutionary Road.

Newman said: “I’m incredibly excited to be working with Sam again. It’s a real thrill to be able to collaborate on something as special as a Bond movie.”

Distinguished career spans fifty films and ten Oscar nominations

While he may be new to the Bond franchise, Newman is one of the most respected composers in Hollywood.  Since his first film in 1984 he has scored over fifty films including The Shawshank Redemption, Erin Brockovich, The Help, Wall-E, The Adjustment Bureau and The Iron Lady.

He has also been nominated for a total of ten Academy Awards, but while he has failed to win an Oscar he has a BAFTA, two Grammys and an Emmy.

The Bond music has been handed to other respected composers over the years for various reasons and the results have generally been excellent.  Bill Conti did a great job on For Your Eyes Only while George Martin’s Live and Let Die was also well received.  So, hiring a composer with Newman’s pedigree shouldn’t be a concern to Bond fans.

The one question mark, though, is whether Newman can successfully translate his talents to an action movie.  All his previous soundtracks have been gentle, slow paced affairs and Skyfall will be the first true action movie he has scored.  No doubt he will turn to Barry and Arnold’s work for inspiration, and fans will be hoping he can adapt his style to capture the bombastic orchestral music needed for a Bond adventure.

And what of Arnold?  Is that the end of his relationship with the Bond series?  Far from it.  The composer continues to work with Eon on their 50th anniversary projects having recently produced the John Barry Memorial concert at the Royal Albert Hall.  As Arnold admitted: “I always said I would do them as long as they ask. If they ask for next one I will do it.

“I’m looking forward to watching Skyfall as a fan. First time in 14 years!”

The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the website owner.

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