Composer Carter Burwell on ‘Carol’ and the Coen Brothers
I‘ve never done one of these press days before,” Carter Burwell says into the phone, the composer’s allegro voice inflected with the curious enthusiasm of a kid playing the first level of a new videogame. “Interview after interview — I’m enjoying the novelty of it, I’ll say that.”
Something doesn’t compute about this. Burwell isn’t exactly new to the movie business. On the contrary, the man has scored more than 90 films since the Coen brothers first hired him to write the music for their debut, 1984’s Blood Simple. He’s worked with major filmmakers like Spike Jonze, Sidney Lumet, and David O. Russell, and he’s done a number of more broadly commercial gigs — he scored Twilight, for God’s sake. How the hell has he avoided us for so long? Burwell laughs: “I basically try to live as far from the film industry as I can without leaving the United States.”
So why is the composer sitting with a publicist in a Los Angeles hotel room, more than 3,000 miles from his Long Island home? Why is he finally playing the game for the first time, more than 30 years into one of the most illustrious composing careers the movies have ever known?
In a word: Carol. “I saw the response to the film and the score out of Cannes and I thought ‘Hmm, if I’m ever going to do this thing, if I’m ever going to hire a publicist — which I’ve never done before — and if I’m ever going to pursue the ‘recognition’ aspect of the industry, maybe this is the time to do it.”