Composer/editor John Ottman talks ‘X-Men’ at Comic-Con

Composer/editor John Ottman talks ‘X-Men’ at Comic-Con
Film composer John Ottman is appearing at Comic-Con to speak about the “musical anatomy” of scoring comic book-based films. Courtesy photo

REGION — On July 24, John Ottman will appear at Comic-Con’s 2nd Annual Musical Anatomy of a Superhero panel, in which prominent Hollywood composers will provide insight into bringing comic book characters and stories to life through music.

A Marvel veteran, Ottman is the only person in Hollywood who handles both scoring and editing duties in the films on which he works, a practice he reserves solely for his longtime collaborator Bryan Singer. His dual contributions can be seen in the recent “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

During this phone interview, Ottman discussed his working relationship with Singer, his favorite career scores, what draws him to Marvel characters, the experience he had in composing the latest “X-Men” score, and more.


What do you enjoy most about your collaboration with director Bryan Singer, from your USC days to nowadays?

The best part is the fact that we’ve worked together for so many years that there’s a trust factor that we have, and so it makes my job much easier than it can be when we’re making one our films. I just do it [music and editing] and then he comes in and basically sees what I’ve been doing and checks in to see how I’m shaping things.


If you had to choose the one film score of your career that you love the most, which would it be?

That’s a really hard one because there’s a few of them, but, inevitably, it’s usually the ones that no one hears or sees; the films that bomb usually end up being my favorite scores. In recent memory, one would be “Astro Boy” – a film that no one ever saw – and going way back, there’s a film called “Incognito”; that wasn’t even released. And “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is one of my favorites as well.


What do you personally enjoy about scoring Marvel films, given your long history with not only the “X-Men” series, but also the last two “Fantastic Four” films?

Well, I think you can wear your emotions on your sleeve a little more as a composer, because the characters are larger-than-life, and therefore you don’t have to be as subtle as you might have to be with another film, and you can actually write themes for characters and so forth. As a composer, that’s sort of a breath of fresh air, because you can be more musical than you might be restricted to on some other franchise. I think a superhero film is the closest thing you can get to score an animated film, which is the ultimate film for a composer, because you can just completely be much more overt with your musical emotions.


When you were composing the score for “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” what kind of approach did you opt for so as to differentiate this film from “X2”?

The biggest thing that differentiates it from “X2” is that it’s a little more modern; it’s been over a decade since “X2,” and some of the scoring styles have changed slightly, even though I continue to keep my own mantra of being thematic in my scores and keep within the spirit of the “X-Men” franchise. Nevertheless, the score was more modern and perhaps darker. Modern meaning I used a lot more synthesizers within the score than just pure orchestra.


How fun was it incorporating Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” into the Quicksilver slow-motion sequence?

It was a lot of fun, actually, because when we put that song into the pre-vis version of that scene, it just completely made the scene happen. I wish I could take credit for that song, but the pre-vis artist with whom I was working put that song in, and I was thrilled with it. I was hoping it would actually work, and it did, because when you actually go put the scene together for real, it’s very often that the song doesn’t work anymore, and I was thrilled that the song still was just as magical in the sequence as it was in the animated version of the scene.


Now that Singer has successively returned to the “X-Men” series with “Days of Future Past,” are you looking forward to scoring and editing future installments?

Yes and no. The “no” comes because of the responsibilities that I take and the hell on Earth that I experience trying to tackle those tasks; that part I don’t look forward to. Having said that, there wouldn’t be any franchise that I wouldn’t jump in faster than this one; I am so in love with these characters and the world of “X-Men,” and filled with passion about it.       So, in that regard, I would very much look forward to going back and continuing to tell the story.



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