1978 INTERVIEW - WILLIAMS WROTE LETTER TO DE PALMA IN APPRECIATION OF 'OBSESSION'
As John Williams turns 90 today, here's a fascinating excerpt (via JW Collection) from an interview of Williams, which was conducted by Derek Elley for the British magazine Films And Filming, mere days after Williams had recorded the soundtrack album for The Fury with the London Symphony Orchestra:
How did your most recent score, The Fury, come about?
Well, I'd admired Brian De Palma's last few films, particularly Obsession, which had a Bernard Herrmann score I liked very much (so like Vertigo). And I thought Brian had served Herrmann's music better than anyone in so many years. I wrote to him and thanked him for that. Later I met him - in the interim Bernard Herrmann had died - and we talked about Benny and it turned out that Brian was a very close friend of Steven Spielberg (whose girlfriend, Amy Irving, is a star of the picture). One day Brian burst into my office at Twentieth Century-Fox and said, 'Look, we're doing this picture The Fury, and alas poor dear Benny isn't with us anymore and Amy's the star - would you do the score?' and I said, 'With great pleasure.' So it was all a very close and intimate kind of thing.
De Palma had always payed a great deal of attention to music in his films...
He loves music; he can't have enough of it. He loves to play it out loud, and I think that's wonderful from my own point of view. He's also a good film-maker: as I studied the timing of the film on the movieola I realised what great expertise was involved. He's a great student of Hitchcock, of course; every shot is planned - there's none of this willy-nilly editing from here-to-there. It's rhythmic, it's very musical in that sense; the scenes will almost play themselves. So many directors are jealous of their realistic sounds - they want exactly what was here in the scene. Not with Brian! He'll have an opera playing in the background if he likes it! He's theatrical, he has flair, he's musical - all of these.
Did he give you any specific musical instructions?
No, he really gave me my head very much. I looked at the film in New York (he likes to work in New York), went back to California and spotted it, and sent him a typewritten list of the scenes. He rang me and asked for three more scenes to contain music, and I agreed to do them. So he wanted more music than even I intended.
And the soundtrack album was recorded here?
Yes. That was a fortuitous accident. As soon as we finished recording the score I had to come to London to start work on Superman. We were able to get the LSO for two days, so we did the album over here in Tooting a few days ago.
For John Williams' birthday today, Michael Beek at the BBC's Classical Music magazine posted the "10 best film scores by John Williams." Beek's top ten includes The Fury:
Williams didn’t dip his toe into the horror or thriller genres very often (and never really fully), but this entry directed by Brian de Palma gets pretty close. By 1978 the composer was used to painting in broad strokes and had already won three Oscars. This score has a fantastic breadth and ferocious energy with more than a nod in places to the late Bernard Herrmann. Scenes of psychokinetic powers (often with grizzly results) are underscored with great zeal by Williams, who just sounds like he’s having the best time. Though the original score was recorded in Los Angeles, Williams recorded the soundtrack album with the London Symphony Orchestra.
The best bit? Gillian has a terrifying vision of what happened to a young man with similar telekinetic powers, abducted by terrorists. Williams unleashes a battery of orchestral power here, in one of several memorable musical moments.