SAYS FILM WAS 'PRETTY MUCH' EDITED DOWN TO FINAL VERSION PRIOR TO ADDING SCORE
Mark Isham had a very interesting conversation with Broadway World's Pat Cerasaro, in which the composer discussed, among other projects, his work on Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia. While there was a version of The Black Dahlia screened for test audiences in early 2006 that was longer than the final released film, Isham seems pretty certain there was no overt studio involvement that specifically led to the shorter version. Instead, he speculates that producer Art Linson may have simply discussed with De Palma trimming the almost three-hour cut down to two hours. Isham also relates how he initially mis-guessed what kind of music De Palma would want for The Black Dahlia. Here is the section of the interview pertaining to that film:
PC: What was it like working with Brian De Palma on THE BLACK DAHLIA? Was it cumbersome to come in already knowing his amazing legacy of great scores for his films - particularly those by Pino Donaggio and Ennio Morricone? His film’s scores are always so specific.
MI: Well, he was a gentlemen about it, too. I think that I had sent him some music early on for that and he didn’t respond to it, and, so, I called the producer and I said, “Look, I would really love to do this movie. What is he looking for?” And the producer sent me over some pieces they were using for the temp-score and I realized that I had completely mis-guessed on how he wanted to score this thing.
PC: Oh, really?
MI: Yeah, so I re-sent him some music and he called me immediately and said, “This is what I am looking for!” So, I think we started off right on the right foot because, once I knew what he was looking for, I duplicated it and presented it to him immediately and he said, “That’s perfect.” So, we went in with a high degree of mutual respect and delight and willingness in doing this together. He was just great. Like you say, he is very specific and when he says, “That’s good,” then, you know you are doing great. [Laughs.]
PC: And if you are not?
MI: “Don’t do that! That’s terrible!” - then you know you have to rewrite it. [Laughs.]
PC: That film was plagued with behind-the-scenes shenanigans and I know there was originally a much, much longer original cut, so how did you deal with that? Did you score that version or only the version that eventually was released? Have you ever gone to an opening night and half your score was missing?
MI: [Laughs.] Actually, I have - but, not on that picture! From the time that we started scoring it, it was pretty much as it came out. I believe that the studio actually stayed out of that and I think what a lot of it was about was that he was working with Art Linson - who produced THE UNTOUCHABLES and they have a long, long history - and, I think Art is one of the few who can say, “Brian, you can’t have a 3-hour movie,” [Laughs.] and Brian will actually respect that.
PC: How interesting.
MI: I think they had already gone through the process of editing it down. Art actually came to me at one point and said, “Look, there are still a couple of things that I think Brian needs to change - but, I think Brian and I have sort of had as much of a discussion as we are going to have, so why don’t you see what you can do to help these areas?” And, then, I think there were a few picture-trims at that point - but, pretty much, I worked on it when it was the final film and not much changed.
PC: There are some thrilling music cues - especially the opening scene with Josh Hartnett and, later, the Fiona Shaw mad scene.
MI: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
PC: Were you influenced by Jerry Goldsmith’s CHINATOWN score?
MI: Oh, yes - of course. I love that score and know it very well.
PANKOW HAD TO TRIM LESBIAN FLOOR SHOW FROM FIVE MINUTES DOWN TO JUST ONE MINUTE
Editor Bill Pankow has described how he had to edit down the k.d. lang song and floor show in the lesbian night club from five minutes to one minute, so it does seem there was at least the potential for some trimming even after Isham had completed his score. Pankow showed the uncut version of the scene to a master class in 2007, describing how he managed to get it down to one minute. Perhaps one day, we will get a cut of the film that is a bit longer...