Alexandre Desplat: a conversation with the Oscar-winning composer

Oscar winner, holder of countless nominations to the statuette, award-winning of most coveted film awards, a multi-faceted and versatile composer; Alexandre Desplat is the first “guest” of TchakART online.

Mr. Desplat, you was the first composer to preside over the jury of the Venice Film Festival in during the 71. edition and deliver the “Golden Lion”, one of the most prestigious awards, to Roy Andersson. Today, what do you keep from that experience?
The invitation of Alberto Barbera came as an incredible surprise.
And I am grateful because I always fight for the composer, third author of a film, to find a spot now lost.
His offer, aim at honoring for the first time the music and the composer in a historic festival, could not be refused.
I think festivals are intended to help discover or confirm the talents and even masters of cinema. The Festival is one of the finest cinemas appointments around the world, the Jury and I chose in selecting the filmographic objects that seemed the most unique, innovative, courageous. Roy Andersson is an artist whom work is original, like no other and his “Pigeon …” convinced us, after 77 years, that it was time he received one of the most prestigious award that a director can dream of getting: The Golden Lion.

Alexandre DesplatIn your opinion, why a large number of films selected at Venice Film Festival, at the end, do better during the awards season? – Could this affect productions in their choice for a festival rather than another?
Once again, we have to thank Alberto Barbera who knows how to choose movies to put in the selection with an international denomination. The calendar also, for a long time, put the festival as the first showcase for the awards’ race.

Why the selection of films at Cannes does not get the same results? Are these two different types of way to see films?
The fact that it takes place in the spring could be, perhaps one of the reasons, but some films awarded in Cannes often continue their run to the “Golden Globe” and the Oscars, like the recent “A Prophet” by Jacques Audiard, or “The White Ribbon” and “Amour” by Michael Haneke.

What are the criteria that a production adopts to choose a festival? Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Toronto …?
I confess that I don’t have an answer.

From Monteverdi, to Vivaldi, of course … but also Mozart with a long stay in Venice in search of stimuli for future creations in the European courts until … Brian Eno that installs here his home for inspiration by Euterpe … all this might suggest that this city helps artistic creation. What do you think? Would you see youself as a “Venetian” … (although not very “anonimo”)?
The magic of the lagoon and its history are really inspiring. I could actually work there: when I was president of the jury I had installed a studio in my room at Excelsior!
Becoming a film composer was a vocation from the beginning?
Ever since I was seized by the passion for cinema I focused myself on the film music that I liked the most, and the desire became a reality by listening to the symphonic score by John Williams for Star Wars. But Hermann, Rota, Delerue, or Jarre had already entered into my life as a cinephile musician.

Are there any works that marked you, or … influenced during your formation?
See above.

Dobby in “Harry Potter” Maya on plane in “Zero Dark Thirty”: when you compose a ‘theme’ for a character, the strong musical identity that you masterfully create, came out also thinking about the interpreter, talking to him, or director is your privileged spokesman?
No. It is really the director who guides the art “places” of the film, to which I belong as a composer. But sometimes the producers give their opinions, which they are should be integrated.


“Pets”, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” … these are two animated films with a completely different target. To compose the soundtrack do you also uses a different approach?
Two completely different aesthetic. The stop motion in the detailed, precise and singular Wes Anderson’s universe, is a very intimate music as the small dolls that are the characters.
In Pets, a pure animation, a symphonic and jazz virtuosity allowed me to play with the codes of the films of my childhood like Disney, Warner or Tex Avery and their composers such as the Sherman brothers, Carl Stalling and Scott Bradley.

You found yourself on the other side of the camera as an actor in “Monuments Men”, was this an experience you would like to repeat?
Especially with friends like George (Clooney) and Matt (Damon), who give me the line! Well, I must confess that I would have liked a scene with Cate Blanchett.

“The Light Between Oceans” (Venezia 73 competition)comes from a very beautiful and poetic book of Stedman, for your musical creation, have you felt the need to read this book to translate all its dramatic charge and “suspended” atmosphere or rather are the images of Derek Cianfrance that inspired you?
I have not read the book for this film. The scenario was already finished and this can sometimes cause confusion or a kind of disappointment. Derek’ staging is absolutely magnificent and I hope that the public and the jury of the Festival will be sensitive.

Among the most anticipated movies on the big screen this year, there is “American Pastoral,” adapted from a work by P. Roth. What can you say about this movie, and … on this novel?
I had read the book as soon as it came out. A very strong story, a tragic view and very exciting and moving idea of American family, but that turns out to be universal.
As a first test like a director, Ewan (McGregor) has demonstrated an incredible mastery.
It is a complete artist, with a very great sensitivity and I think he will surprise us during this new chapter of his career.

Can you tell us something about the soundtrack of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”? Did you have to face with the “specter” of John Williams?
No comment. Confidentiality agreement.
Can I just say that soon I will record with my favorite orchestra: LSO.

Last question, you won an Academy Award, you have been nominated seven times for the coveted statuette, not to mention the many other awards that underpin the success of your career, would like to give to young people who would like to follow your example?
Writing music. Listen to music. Devour Movies, Literature, Visual arts, art in general, and again and again …