Interview With “X-Men: Apocalypse” Composer John Ottman


X-Men: Apocalypse will see our mutants battle against an ancient evil, which will entail a movie score like no other. Now let’s meet the man composing the music for the latest X-Men franchise installment—John Ottman.

X-Men: Apocalypse will be an epic movie that goes from Ancient Egypt to America in the 1980s. To fully realize this rich and diverse setting, an equally impressive musical backdrop must also be used. The talent accepting this daunting challenge is John Ottman—a composer who is very familiar with creating scores for superhero blockbusters. With credits that include X2: X-Men United (2003), Superman Returns (2006), and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), Ottman is perfect for the job.

Bam Smack Pow recently spoke with the seasoned composer about scoring for this summer’s blockbuster. So join us as Ottman talks about how he created the soundtrack for X-Men: Apocalypse.

Bam Smack Pow: What was the collaboration effort like with director Bryan Singer? You’ve been working with him on so many films, was the process here any different?

John Ottman: Well, we’ve done this a few times already. The process and work is the same, but this one seemed a little more difficult. One of the biggest challenges was going into production before the script was even finished—because there were a lot of moving parts.

BSP: What was your favorite track in the overall score?

JO: The opening Egypt track! It’s where we see Apocalypse from the start—from where he changes into a new body. It was basically balls-out Egyptian chanting!

This was also the most difficult of the tracks. And little do people know, the opening track is usually the last thing for me to complete. It’s the opening, so it’s very important. It sets the overall tone and theme of the movie. You only know that after finishing the score. The opening is one of those things that keeps me up at night.

Sometimes, you just have to go in with confidence and just know that it’s the right thing to do. One example is with the Egyptian chanting. When I first created it, I had synthesized voices as a placeholder. Everybody thought I was completely crazy—my own team thought I was nuts! But then when we performed it with a full orchestra and with real voices—it sounded amazing and people knew I hadn’t lost it.

BSP: What were the most challenging aspects of creating the score for X-Men: Apocalypse?

JO: The biggest challenge of the music was keeping it engaging. You have to tell a musical story. X-Men: Apocalypse has all these new players that it is essentially an origins movie for all these characters.

I also had to keep in mind that X-Men: Apocalypse is wrapping up a trilogy that started with X-Men: First Class. So the score had to be very thematic. It had to be dramatic in the orchestral sense.

BSP: Who were your biggest influences?

JO: I know this will sound boring, but my biggest influence was when I saw the original Star Wars (1977) as a kid. That really started me on the path of becoming interested in movie music.

Then I saw Alien (1979), and Jerry Goldsmith blew me away. Jerry Goldsmith is my God. His music just delves deeper psychologically. And if I’m going to mention Goldsmith, I also have to mention Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). The music is timeless because it was orchestral. No one wants dated music. That’s why you have to be careful with thematic music.

Another thing is that some people feel television music is lower quality than film music. But as television becomes more polished, there really is no difference between, say, CSI and regular film music. You can’t even tell the difference now.

BSP: Any other projects coming up that you would like your fans to know about?

JO: Hell no! If I were to really say what project, it would be my personal life [laughs]. I’m completely broken right now. It’s been basically non-stop work!

Official Synopsis: Worshiped as a god since the dawn of civilization, the immortal Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) becomes the first and most powerful mutant. Awakening after thousands of years, he recruits the disheartened Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and other mutants to create a new world order. As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Professor X (James McAvoy) and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) lead a team of young X-Men to stop their seemingly invincible nemesis from destroying mankind.

X-Men: Apocalypse has a United States release date of May 27, 2016 and will be directed by Bryan Singer and written by Simon Kinberg, Dan Harris, and Michael Dougherty, and will star James McAvoy as Charles Xavier / Professor X, Michael Fassbender and Ian McKellan as Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkhölme, Nicholas Hout as Hank McCoy / Beast, Evan Peters as Peter Maximoff / Quicksilver, Oscar Isaac as En Sabah Nur / Apocalypse, Alexandra Shipp as Ororo Munroe / Storm, Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers / Cyclops, Rose Burne as Moira MacTaggert, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Kurt Wagner / Nightcrawler, Lana Condor as Jubilation Lee, Ben Hardy as Warren Worthington III / Angel, Olivia Munn as Betsy Braddock / Psylocke, and Lucas Till as Alex Summers / Havok.

John Ottman is a film editor, composer, and director. He graduated from the University of Southern California’s famed School of Cinematic Arts in 1988. One of his first credits was providing original music for the video game I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (1995).

For most of his Hollywood career, he’s had a fruitful collaboration with director Bryan Singer. Films Ottman has composed for Singer include The Usual Suspects (1995), Apt Pupil (1998), X2: X-Men United (2003), Superman Returns (2006), Valkyrie (2008), Jack the Giant Slayer (2013), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), and X-Men: Apocalypse (2016).

Other films he’s composed for include Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997), House of Wax (2005), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), Fantastic Four (2005), Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), The Invasion (2007), and Astro Boy (2009).

Ottman has also performed directing and editing duties. For Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000), he directed, edited, and scored the film.

John Ottman has won a BAFTA Award for Best Editing for The Usual Suspects (1995), and two Saturn Awards for Best Music—one for The Usual Suspects (1995) and the other for Superman Returns (2006).

Source: Wikipedia