Hans Zimmer Talks 12 YEARS A SLAVE, the Importance of the Film, Akiva Goldsman’s WINTER’S TALE, Reflections on Ridley Scott’s HANNIBAL, and More

     October 20, 2013


Now playing in New York and L.A. is director Steve McQueen’s incredible drama 12 Years a Slave.  Based on Solomon Northup’s autobiography of the same name, the true story chronicles his twelve-year journey as an educated and married free man from New York who was abducted in 1841 and forced into slavery for over a decade.  The film is absolutely one of the best of the year and features powerful performances by the whole cast, especially Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong’O, and it will be a major player in this year’s awards race.  For more on the film, read Matt’s review.

Recently I got the chance to visit composer Hans Zimmer in his recording studio. During our wide-ranging conversation, he talked about his fantastic work on 12 Years a Slave, his initial reluctance to join the project, how McQueen gave him excellent direction while working on the music, and his overall approach to the score.  Zimmer also talked about his “very traditional” work on the fantasy Winter’s Tale, how he thinks of Ridley Scott’s Hannibal as the last great romantic love story he worked on, and more.  Hit the jump to watch.

hans-zimmer-12-years-a-slaveAnd if you missed my previous articles from my extended interview:

  • If you missed what Zimmer had to say about his work on The Amazing Spider-Man 2click here.
  • If you missed what he had to say about returning for the Man of Steel sequel and Ben Affleck as Batman, click here.
  • If you missed what he had to say about Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar score and the influence of The Dark Knight Trilogy on blockbuster filmmaking, click here.
  • If you missed what he had to say about working with Tony Scott, click here.

Hans Zimmer Time Index:

  • :29 – Says he and Steve McQueen had a conversation about collaborating a year before McQueen started making 12 Years a Slave. Zimmer felt he wasn’t “the guy” for it, so it took some persuading from McQueen for him to sign on.
  • 1:40 – Talks about the similarities between McQueen and Tony Scott in that he would follow both to the ends of the Earth.
  • 2:28 – Says 12 Years a Slave was one of the best experiences he ever had. Tells a story about McQueen directing a piece of music.
  • 3:15 – Talks about the importance of the film and how it feels relevant despite its period setting.
  • 5:35 – His approach to the music of the film.  Says he never wanted it to be cruel or manipulative, but instead wanted to it be translucent and benign.
  • 7:20 – Talks about foreign directors tackling difficult issues, like Spielberg with Schindler’s List, and the response to the film at TIFF.
  • 9:19 – Winter’s Tale. Says he’s in the middle of scoring the film right now.  Calls it a great romantic love story.
  • 10:20 – Says he thinks the last great romantic love story he did was Ridley Scott’s Hannibal, which he thinks of as a romantic comedy.
  • 12:31 – Back to Winter’s Tale.  Says it’s an incredibly traditional score with proper tunes, proper melodies, and proper orchestration.


  • JK1193

    Next time, could you ask him about when he would work with Ridley again? That’s a great filmmaker/composer partnership.

    • chris


      I think that the Nolan/Zimmer team up started because Nolan is such a big Ridley Scott fan

      • peteagassi

        No. Nolan has worked with david julyan before. zimmer and newton howard scored nolans first big movie. zimmer and nolan just continued on due to circumstance and scheduling.

      • Sebastian

        It wasn’t just circumstance and scheduling… – Nolan will work his schedule around Zimmer’s and vice versa – they are simpatico… especially in the creative sense. Don’t be surprised that Zimmer/Nolan will become the next major composer/director relationship next to ‘Elfman/Burton’ and ‘Spielberg/Williams’ – I’m pretty sure Ridley and Hans had a falling out… Ridley’s composers of choice now have been many of Hans’ assistants…

    • The Flobbit

      I’m hoping they’ll reteam for Exodus.

  • Northern Star

    ‘Hannibal’ is a very underrated film; it’s a very elegant work punctuated by bursts of genuinely shocking violence, and with some of the most hauntingly beautiful and ethereal music yet heard on the silver screen… and the cinematography is second to none to boot!

    If it had been a standalone film and not a sequel, it would have been much better received upon it’s release…

    • The Flobbit

      I wholeheartedly agree. It’s not equal to the chilling gut-punch of Silence of the Lambs, but it’s head and shoulders above Manhunter, Red Dragon, and Hannibal Rises.

      But in what world is it a romantic comedy?

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  • Sebastian

    I think Ridley and Hans had a falling out…

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