Logan is a superhero film unlike any other. For a project this unique, it was imperative that the score be composed by someone with extensive experience in the art of film music. Composer Marco Beltrami was the perfect candidate. In his 23-year career, Beltrami has been nominated twice for an Academy Award and has worked on beloved films including 3:10 to Yuma and The Hurt Locker. He has also had substantial experience in the superhero film genre, due to his work on films such as Hellboy, The Wolverine, and Fantastic Four.
Earlier this week, Marco Beltrami spoke with Blast Magazine about his previous film compositions, his professional relationship with director James Mangold, and his experience working on the final chapter in the Wolverine franchise.
Blast Magazine: You and director James Mangold had worked together in the past on The Wolverine and 3:10 to Yuma. Was it a comfortable working relationship to come back to for Logan? Based on that relationship, was the process for this film more collaborative?
Marco Beltrami: James is a very musically-oriented director and a huge fan of soundtrack scores, which makes him a very inspiring director to work for. He opens your eyes to things you might not have thought of before. Music is an abstract language, so there is a learning curve with any director and some time required to get into a comfort zone together. We had established that and with Logan, James expressed how much he wanted to encourage experimentation and originality.
Blast Magazine: Logan is so thematically different than any superhero film released in the past. When you first found out about the film’s direction, were you worried that it would be harder to write for since there was nothing directly comparable?
Beltrami: I was more excited. One of the worst things for a film composer is to have a director provide an example of a previous film score that they would like yours to be similar to. That’s never the case with James’s movies. He always focuses on originality and people respond to that. It’s a way to create something great.
Blast Magazine: Along with the plot, the music in Logan is also completely unlike what normally accompanies the typical superhero film. The soundtrack is much more supportive rather than overwhelming and grandiose. Was that something that James explicitly desired for this film?
Beltrami: Immediately after I saw Logan, all I could think about was how beautifully everything worked together. The music was really supportive in this film. When I spoke to James, he explained how he didn’t want the music to lead, but rather to support. The music should follow the story, rather than be ahead of it. This was something that was very important to both of us.
Blast Magazine: Besides Logan, you also composed the score for The Wolverine. Is there something that attracts you to the story of Logan and makes him a desirable character to write for?
Beltrami: I’ve always viewed the story of Wolverine’s beginning as a Western. He is a lone hero pitted against everyone. He’s lost everything that he loved and doesn’t really have much reason to live. I worked on The Wolverine from that concept originally, but it went in a different direction and became more “Marvel superhero” by the end. In contrast, Logan stayed true to that beginning character and the Western-themed idea that was always very attractive.
Blast Magazine: Although Logan was filled with emotional scenes, none were quite as heart-wrenching as the deaths of Charles Xavier and Logan. Were those the most difficult scenes to score?
Beltrami: The ending of the movie was very challenging. I had to ride a fine line because it was the end of the movie and the franchise, so it was fitting to play it a little more epic, but in this moment, it also felt that it had to be very quiet and subdued. It was about hitting the balance of not feeling forced and not leading the picture. It definitely was a challenge.
Blast Magazine: To prepare for Logan, did you do any research such as watching The Wolverine or other X-Men films?
Beltrami: We didn’t do any research with any of the X-Men movies, which I felt was refreshing. On so many different levels, Logan was not meant to be just a superhero movie. James did reference other movies that were inspiring to him for this project, so we did our preparation using those. He loved the energy from the score for Taxi Driver and its 70’s jazz intensity, electronic and acoustic mix. He also referenced Paper Moon for its depiction of relationships.
Blast Magazine: One of the most impressive elements of your career is the wide variety of films you have been able to work on in the past, from The Night Before to I, Robot. Your work has never been confined to a specific genre or project type. Is that a conscious decision on your part?
Beltrami: As a film composer, you’re predisposed to many different genres. Some composers do get typecast because they work on a movie that goes well and then they continue to get more of the same type of work. I feel fortunate to be able to work in different genres. I’m not interested in the genre of a project, but rather the project itself. It’s definitely a case by case situation.
Blast Magazine: Included in your extensive list of previous works is multiple films focusing on infamous superheroes, such as the Fantastic Four and Wolverine. Is there a superhero you would like to work with in the future?
Beltrami: I have done some mainstream superhero movies, but I’ve also done some that more on the fringes, like Hellboy and Blade II. I’ve never been a huge comic book fan though. I enjoyed the basics as a kid like Batman, Superman and Spiderman, but I’ve never been fully engrossed in the more detailed superhero world. For me, it really is just the material of the project that I find inspiring, rather than the specific genre.