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HomeAwardsContender – Composer Alexandre Desplat, Ghost Writer

Contender – Composer Alexandre Desplat, Ghost Writer


Alexandre Desplat

According to Alexandre Desplat, composer of The Ghost Writer – a story about a writer who uncovers secrets that put his life in jeopardy when he is hired to complete the memoirs of a former British prime minister – the most challenging aspect of composing the score was the writer-director, Roman Polanski. Desplat explains, “I’ve been an admirer of his work since I was in my teens. Not only his direction and vision of cinema, but the way he uses music in all of his films.” Desplat was hoping for some direction from Polanski, but did not get it in the way he expected. He confesses, “After I first saw the film, I turned to Roman, who has a wide range of knowledge of music, but all he told me was to embrace the movie as hard as I can! Actually, that was very helpful. When I got back home, I thought, this score must be very physical with a lot of energy!”

“When I score a movie, I try to find a concept. This one was about ghosts,” shares Desplat. “I thought, what kind of sound would that make? I knew that films in the ’40s and ’50s used a kind of moaning for the ghosts. What instrument could make that sound? The only one I could think of was the flute, with singing at the same time, like Jethro Tull did. I realized that I couldn’t use a jazz -type of sound, but what if I used several players at the same time? So I wrote four flute parts with the four flute players singing at the same time. That became the sound of the ghost writer.”

More challenges ensued when Polanski was put under house arrest in Switzerland. Postproduction continued, but the director could not return to France for the scoring sessions in Paris to provide guidance or even approval of any of the score. Desplat was on his own.

When asked what constitutes an Oscar worthy score, Desplat responded, “To me, it’s not only is it Oscar worthy, but, is it worthy! Does the music bring something that the movie would lack if it were not there? I don’t mean technically, I mean emotionally. Artistically, there is something that is different, that belongs to this movie alone, and that is really exceptional.”

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