All the Music in the World: Daniel Pemberton on Scoring Ridley Scott's Wild New Crime Thriller
By Daniel Pemberton • January 12, 2018
Ridley Scott's new film All the Money in the World is many things: a thriller, a family drama, a mob movie, a meditation on the corrupting power of money. How to capture all those different shades in score form? Scott couldn't have chosen a better partner than his frequent collaborator Daniel Pemberton (PRS), one of the most colorful film composers out there. This Ivor Novello-winning, Golden Globe-nominated Brit is known for his chameleonic scoring palette, which might encompass electronic gurgles, choral bombast, rock instrumentation, orchestra writing or all the above, depending on the project. Here, Pemberton explains why scoring All the Money was an adventure unlike any other scoring assignment he's had before.
Working with Ridley Scott is always an adventure. Like most fellow composers, the majority of my time is spent in front of a screen or piano in my home studio. For All the Money in the World though, I actually got out of the house - last-minute spotting sessions where I was woken in the morning in London to be told I had to be in LA by the afternoon as Ridley suddenly wanted to go through things; visits to the set to soak up the ancient majesty of Rome; and a frantically-organised trip to the middle of nowhere in Sardinia to track down some singers I'd found on a clip someone had filmed on an iPhone that had been uploaded to YouTube.
One of the most exciting things though was when Ridley told me "I want a big theme for the opening." As so many of us sadly know, it's rare these days to be actually asked to write a melody or theme - most of the time it's non-committal drones or tension beds. The tide feels like it's changing, but there still seems to be a fashion for music that is as emotionally neutral as possible. However with the story of J. Paul Getty, we had a larger-than-life character for a musical canvas. Ridley let me write big classical orchestral themes - pieces that hopefully felt they could have been around for centuries. It was fun. A number of people commented that they thought those pieces were adaptations of existing classical pieces - or to be more blunt, had I ripped of some old composers? No! I took that as a compliment.
After a good number of years making weird noises on my scores, it was exciting to be back writing a score for full orchestra and choir that was "conventionally" musical, and it was funny how many people that surprised. That's not to say I turned my back on the weird noises - there's everything from music stands being played with cello bows to sound beds made out of the bells they hung round the necks of cattle - but it was strangely liberating to go back to something that relied purely on the notes on the page and not any sonic sleights of hand. I got texts translated into Latin and Italian and sung by medieval sacred singers and operatic sopranos. We did great stuff with multiple clarinetists all playing atonal drone clusters. And we did it all fast. The turnaround on the film was crazy. I was writing the huge ending piece just a few days before we recorded it.
And then it happened. Score recorded, Ridley came into Abbey Road as we were mixing, fuming. The news had just broken about a certain actor who we all now know about that morning. "How am I meant to know the personal life of every single person I work with? There's hundreds of people on this film, I can't vet every single one anytime I want to work with them..." It was definitely surreal to be slap bang in the middle of a moment that will probably go down in movie industry legend for years to come. We played him the new cues but all of us were deflated - the news was terrible and we also all knew the film was sunk. But this was Ridley Scott. The guy who was turning 80 in a few weeks but still had more energy than most of us in the mix room put together. He regaled us with stories of Hockney, Vangelis and Fellini while we went through the pieces but he was already scheming. A week later we learnt he was re-shooting every scene in the film with J. Paul Getty. Madness. Insane. I don't even think the studio believed he could do it - caught on the hop, I've been told the screeners are being sent out in brown paper bags as they didn't leave enough time to print the fancy ones. But we all knew he could do it. And he did. A few tweaks here and there to a couple of cues but the majority was not affected. Like I say, every project with Ridley is an adventure, but maybe none more so than this one. I hope you get to see it. It was an adventure.
All the Money in the World is now in theaters. More info at www.allthemoney-movie.com