The Haunting Sound of ‘Gone Girl’: Trent Reznor on Latest Fincher Score
So the films, the first step is similar. We’ll become familiar with the source material and then, very importantly, sit and talk with David and get an idea of what he’s visualizing, what he’s imagining the role of music is going to be in the film. How much space does it take up? What’s the feeling? Is it cold? Is it dark? Is it bright? Is it bombastic? And then make some decisions about what instruments to use based on that idea.
In the case of Gone Girl, it felt organic-y to start. As we started working on it, it felt like it could use the idea of orchestra, so we ended up using an orchestra for bits of it to layer in with what we’ve done, which was an interesting process. Dragon Tattoo was cold and icy, and that implied a certain subset of synthesizers that were more digital, lots of bells, lots of metal-y type objects. Before that, The Social Network felt like it wanted to be a nod to the more analog, video game-y type propulsive, maybe retro-y, back to the Eighties – even though the timeframe isn’t right – but the implication that it wanted to sound a little more sequence-y.
On the Gone Girl track “The Way He Looks at Me,” there are all these squishy noises and machine sounds. How did you arrive at that?
That’s one of my favorite tracks on there. When we were thinking about what to use and how to compose, it started with a few seeds that David had planted. One of the things we wound up with were these little homemade boxes that this company called Folktek made with little mics in them. It’s very low-tech. There’s some guitar strings that capture in a loop then, where if you hit it, it loops into this little repeating pattern. What we liked about it was it felt liked it was trying to find order. But it’s not right, and it’s not precise. It created this kind of unease that felt, when we were getting into moments of tension in the film, like it could be a good foundation. So instead of it naturally building, it always feels like the foot’s dragging or something is kind of stuck in there.
How did you enjoy scoring the “love scene” between Neil Patrick Harris and Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl?
[Laughs] It wasn’t really that difficult. I was wondering how far to take it. That’s a good one where, “How over the top should the music go? How experimental would you want to get?” We did several variations, but I led with the one in the movie. I don’t think even listened past that one, because it framed it just right and that’s what we stuck with. But we knew that was an important part that needed to cross a line. It was one of those moments.
This is the third David Fincher film you’ve scored. What is it about your relationship with him that keeps you coming back?
I like him. I respect him. It’s inspiring to be around somebody that, I thought I was a prick…and I say that with love.
Let me define that a little better. He has carved out a place where he and his filmmaking crew – the best people in their respective fields – where, year-round, their job is to make the very best thing that they’re all capable of. And I’m rushing to keep up with those guys. I would imagine it would be like being on a fantastic sports team where everybody’s…I don’t know, that’s a terrible analogy because I don’t give a shit about sports. But the point is, the goal is making the best thing we can make in an uncompromised fashion. He’s trying to make the best art he can make, and it happens to be in a fairly mainstream place. That’s exciting to me. And he creates a nurturing environment where I’m not fighting with the studio about making it nicer. He protects the people who are making the film and his actors. In a world of art versus commerce and compromises, I find it very inspiring to be around him.
You’ve done soundtrack work in the past, with Natural Born Killers and Lost Highway, and I imagine you get a lot of requests for more. Why the filmmaker monogamy?
The two films you mentioned, I wasn’t in the trenches of making the films. And I respect those guys [Oliver Stone and David Lynch] very much. Being in it with David has been a great experience. I’m not opposed to working with anybody else. I just haven’t had time.
I’ve been able to keep composing scores precious because I’ve done a limited amount. If it turned into four or five films a year, I don’t know that I have that much to say that could be interesting. I don’t know that I could speak the vocabulary of the action blockbuster. I’d be interested in trying to see if I could compose like that, but more for a challenge to myself rather than, do I think that’s the art I want to do? I don’t know.
Now that the movie is coming out, what are you working on musically?
That’s a good question. I just got off tour a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been tying up loose ends this the whole time. So I’ve got a few things that are considerations. I’m not deeply involved in anything at the moment. I just want to center myself and see what feels exciting. It won’t be touring for a while.
What’s wrong with touring?
I enjoyed it. But I’ve found as I’ve gotten older that, you know, between this and How to Destroy Angels, I’ve been out for 18 months. That’s enough. I’m ready to wake up in the same location for a while.