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Phil Alden Robinson: The Sum Of All Scores

The acclaimed director of Field Of Dreams and Sneakers returns with a tense cold war thriller for the Summer 2002 season - The Sum Of All Fears. Based on Tom Clancy's novel, it sees the return of CIA Analyst Jack Ryan, now played by Ben Affleck, and also stars Morgan Freeman. The big budget thriller unites Phil Alden Robinson with composer Jerry Goldsmith for the first time and I was fortunate enough to quiz the director on their collaboration in this exclusive interview.

How did you decide on Jerry Goldsmith for your new film?

I've always wanted to work with Jerry (who wouldn't?), and when we found that our schedules were compatible, I leapt at the chance.

Have you ever tried to collaborate with Jerry Goldsmith before, but for one reason or another have not been able to?

This was the first opportunity, although we had met once before when Fred Schepisi introduced us during scoring for "Mr. Baseball".

What scores of Jerry Goldsmith have impressed you the most, any personal favourites that mean a lot to you?

"Patton" and "Chinatown" really floored me. And I am a great fan of his score for "The Russia House" (another Fred Schepisi collaboration).

At what stage did you start thinking about music for TSOAF and how important is film music to you as part of the film making process?

My editor, Neil Travis, was cutting temp music as he cut picture, so right from the start of shooting we were formulating our ideas of what the music would be.

Music is crucial to and inseparable from movies. It's no accident that movies had music before they had dialogue.

What kind of score did you want for TSOAF?

Something different from the usual action fare. Emotional, ironic, but pulsing and tense when it needed to be.

When it comes to the music, how much did you collaborate with Jerry Goldsmith on the score? Were you very hands on or did you leave the composer to effectively get on with it and come to you with all the ideas?

We spotted the film together - picked where music should stop and start - and then he began to write. As he'd finish a reel, he'd call me up, and I'd go by his office to listen to the arrangement he had recorded on the synth, which approximated what the whole orchestra would be playing. I'd sometimes have a minor comment or two, but usually he'd be spot on.

Could you briefly run through the timetable for the music elements for TSOAF. I.E. From initial contact with the composer and hiring to the actual music editing stage?

Although we were talking extensively from early fall, we finally turned over the movie to him in December or January (I don't recall), and scored in March.

Were there any dramatic last minute changes to the score, alternate cues written for differently edited scenes, music dropped/added/edited?

As always, there were minor alterations made on the scoring stage (take out the horns in these two bars so the strings stand out ... extend a sustain at the end of a cue ... that sort of thing).

What was the temp score for TSOAF and how did you play the film for Jerry Goldsmith first time out, with or without the temp track?

The temp score was from a variety of other movies, so the cues would work okay for each scene, but weren't thematically linked. I did play the picture for Jerry with the temp score, and then we gave him a videotape without any music for him to work from.

What were your initial reactions when you got to hear the music played properly for the first time with a live orchestra? How important is it for you as a director to be present, is it a confidence builder as the final parts of the jigsaw fall into place?

Scoring sessions are my absolute favourite part of the filmmaking process. To watch the best musicians in the world play music written by a master - music that no one has ever heard before - is a unique thrill. It is important for the director to be present, because there is usually one small thing you'll hear in some cue that needs to be tweaked - something that for dramatic reasons needs to be altered a touch. And Jerry is such a great collaborator that he likes the extra set of eyes and ears.

How did the idea of including a song from the score come about?

It was Jerry's idea. He had written the opening theme and felt the melody might be translatable into a pop song. When I heard the cue, I agreed wholeheartedly. It was also his idea to bring on Paul Williams to write the lyrics. The studio then suggested a wonderful producer named Trevor Horn - one of the best - to produce the record, and the Grammy-Award winning singer Yolanda Adams.

While working with Jerry Goldsmith on TSOAF was there any memorable moments that stood out for you?

The whole process stands out for me - his brilliance, his encyclopaedic musical knowledge, his comprehensive understanding of how music works with picture, and the generosity of his collaboration. Also, watching the total awe and respect the musicians hold him in. It was all a sheer delight.

What did you learn from working with Jerry Goldsmith on TSOAF?

That everything I'd heard about him - his brilliance and kindness - were true.

Did Jerry Goldsmith's score satisfy your vision as a film maker?

It exceeded it!

What are your future plans and would you seek out Jerry Goldsmith again to collaborate on another film?

I haven't finally decided on what's next, but I'd work with Jerry anytime. Who wouldn't?