Hans Zimmer Talks Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR and the Influence of the DARK KNIGHT Trilogy Score on Blockbuster Filmmaking

     October 14, 2013


After first teaming up on Batman Begins, director Christopher Nolan and composer Hans Zimmer have now worked together a total of four times (five counting Man of Steel, which Nolan produced), and the two are set to reteam once again for Nolan’s 2014 sci-fi film Interstellar.  Unsurprisingly, very little is known about Interstellar at this point.  We know that the film has an absolutely stacked cast and follows a group of space explorers journeying through a wormhole, but the rest is under lock and key until the film hits theaters next November.

Steve recently visited Hans Zimmer in his studio for an extended interview, and while the composer was tight-lipped about story details for Interstellar, he did reveal that he wrote a theme back in January while Nolan was writing the script.  He said the two are trying to tell the story in a way that nobody has ever done, which includes throwing out all the hallmarks of their previous collaborations.  Additionally, Zimmer addressed the influence of his Dark Knight trilogy score on the current blockbuster climate and talked about whether he will score The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Hit the jump to read on. 

hans-zimmer-interstellarSpeaking with Steve, Zimmer revealed that while he won’t start work in earnest on Interstellar until next year, he wrote the film’s theme all the way back in January:

“At the back of my mind constantly I’m inventing stuff for Interstellar.  Weirdly I’m a bit ahead on that one.  Circumstances beyond my control, I wrote [Nolan] a main theme in January while he was writing… There’s a tune, there’s a theme there.”

Zimmer went on to talk about what he and Nolan have planned for the film, noting that they want to move away from their previous work together:

“We had this sort of conversation about—you know nine years we spent in our Batman world.  The textures, the music, and the sounds, and the thing we sort of created has sort of seeped into other people’s movies a bit, so it’s time to reinvent.  The endless string of sonatas need to go by the wayside, the big drums are probably in the bin.  So right now it’s sort of the time where I’m pondering what else we can do.”

christopher-nolan-interstellarThe composer was understandably guarded when talking about the pic specifically, but he did reveal that Nolan intends to shake things up:

“Chris feels the same challenge, ‘Let’s do something new.  We have something to say.’  He really has got something to say, there’s a solid backbone to this thing and it’s an important story, and we want to tell it in a way that nobody else has ever done.  And the same goes for the music, of course.”

When speaking about the fact that his scores for the Dark Knight trilogy have been aped a bit for other big studio films, the composer said it was a tad relieving to be finished with the Batman franchise once and for all:

“Thank God it became this sort of stopping point after the third one, we’re done with Batman.  When James Newton Howard started on the first one, we never thought we would have to go and stretch this material over three movies.  The whole point was I was trying to do this minimalist thing that would survive for two hours in one movie (laughs).  And then I had to come back and I had to come back again, and in a weird way it became so much part of the sort of action movie vocabulary.  It really started to dilute us, what we were doing.”

the-dark-knight-rises-christian-bale-batman-imageZimmer elaborated a bit on why he thinks his work on the Batman films became the de facto style in other franchise pics:

“I don’t think it was the success of the Batman movies that really made that style spread like a bad virus through so many other movies, it was just we came up with something that seemed to be appropriate for where we are musically in time at the moment.”

Finally, Steve asked Zimmer if he would be reuniting with his Sherlock Holmes director Guy Ritchie on the filmmaker’s upcoming spy pic The Man from U.N.C.L.E.:

“I have no idea, because once I’m really in full Interstellar mode I’m just gonna go be in full Interstellar mode.  I think it might not work out timewise.  I love Guy and I’d love to do something else with him.  If it’s not this then I’m sure we’ll meet up again sometime.”

Watch the portion of Steve’s interview with Zimmer regarding Interstellar and the legacy of the Batman films below, and look for the full interview on Collider soon.

  • If you missed what Zimmer had to say about his work on The Amazing Spider-Man 2, click here.
  • If you missed what Zimmer had to say about returning for the Man of Steel sequel and Ben Affleck as Batman, click here.


  • Harry

    I’m tired of James Newton Howard not getting any credit for the first 2 Dark Knight trilogy films. Newton Howard no doubt made some of the better music, and his lack of participating in Rises made the films score suffer. Rises, as a score, was the weakest film score.
    Newton Howard makes music. As scores, his collaborations with Shyamalan are acclaimed for a reason. Zimmer makes people beat on drums like a madman. It’s a shame really, because when Zimmer stays away from the drum obsession he makes some great pieces like Elysium from Gladiator and the piano themes in Man of Steel.
    I credit Newton Howard and Zimmer for the Dark Knight scores. Not just Zimmer.

    • Bloost

      Tell that to Zimmer’s ego.

      • Shaman

        It was his own choice to leave as he saw the connection between Zimmer and Nolan getting deeper, and so he felt he would be a third wheel to the project. That said, I believe the first two movies would have been very different without Newton Howard; he brought a truly emotional and heart-warming feel to Bruce Wayne’s personality, especially the piano tunes. Those tunes were them amplified by Hans Zimmer to produce the main action themes, and it worked: Howard synthesized the heart, and Hans Zimmer made it stronger. I’ll go as deep as to say that it works story-wise too; Bruce Wayne has people who care about him, and people he cares about in the first two movies; his parents (who die in Begins) and Rachel (who dies in Dark Knight). In the third film, he’s broken, he’s soulless… and in a way the “heart” disappeared; it was all about the strength, that sheer Batman persona that Bruce Wayne came to define himself with. No heart, no Newton Howard. It works story-wise, in a way.

    • JRIOS209

      I agree with you but Hans Zimmer didn’t do Elysium. Also I don’t think Rises score suffered. The movie in general went in a different direction. I think Nolan tried so hard to break away and not want to be compared to TDK that the music worked. You can still hear some of JNH’s pieces particularly the ending.

      • Bloost

        He’s talking about the track titled Elysium.

    • http://buzzabit.com/aaron/ Aaron Sullivan

      I agree with a lot of what you’re saying but Zimmer himself seems quick to give James Newton Howard credit. Notice that he inserts it in the quote from this very article even though he didn’t have to.

      Despite the obvious shortcomings of the movie, I actually thought James Newton Howard’s soundtrack to The Last Airbender was phenomenal. I still listen to it.

    • justkiddingnobutseriously

      I honestly thought the score for TDKR was brilliant. They are both great composers but I feel Zimmer gets a lot of credit b/c of his reputation, his brand name you might say. That’s not to say Zimmer doesn’t deserve any of it. I think his music is wonderful and his contributions, extremely significant.

    • Andrew

      “Newton Howard makes music.” I am glad you told me. I thought he was a chef of some kind.

      • Harry

        Newton Howard makes music, while Zimmer has people beat on drums like a madman. I thought you’d get the point I was saying what Zimmer does isn’t music. It’s like if someone were to say Kubrick makes art and Bay doesn’t.

      • Andrew

        Oh, NOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW I get it: you wanted to write an argumentative, uncritical post that deals with generalization instead of the specifics of what makes each composer different. Silly me.

      • Harry

        Zimmer is a good composer when it doesn’t come to action scenes. His action scores lately are just DRUMS DRUMS DRUMS. No tempo change really. There’s a difference between John Williams’ action scores like Duel of the Fates or Battle of the Heroes than Hans Zimmer’s countless action tracks from Rises and Man of Steel that sound the same with no diversity.

      • Andrew

        And that’s no better than the complete nothing-ness of Howard’s most recent music, why?

      • Harry

        Damn, good point. I can’t argue with that. I guess time flies and Newton Howard has only put out one good soundtrack from 2009 to 2013 and it was to a film considered crap, The Last Airbender.

      • mgm5215

        Nothing-ness? A single cue from a JNH score (like Arena Crumbles from Catching Fire) has better care, complexity and use of instruments than most of Zimmer’s recent scores (the Batman ones, Man Of Steel, 12 Years A Slave – where he rips off the main theme of Inception and uses it all over the score -). James at least uses a full orchestra, his sound is organic, even when he goes in RCP mode (like in Green Lantern and Snow White & The Huntsman) he doesn’t shy away to use different varieties of styles and percusions, when Zimmer goes all BRAAAM, and use the same synth string ostinato over and over again. Also, if anything, it’s Zimmer’s fault for contaminate JNH.

      • mgm5215

        And I forgot, James actually writes music by himself. All that Zimmer does is writing one or two themes to by replicate as filler by his Remote Control slaves.

      • AlanMorlock

        We get your point its just wholly incorrect.

      • panagathos

        Man if you don’t have the knowledge of the facts you better don’t be sarcastic and so absolute. You’re obviously clueless of what is happening in Zimmer’s slave farm so please do us a favor and stop being an ass, just open your eyes and ears and try to learn a few things.

    • Strong Enough

      you’re an idiot

      • Harry

        May I ask why I am an idiot? Sorry I wouldn’t give credit, good or bad, to just the Wachowski’s for Cloud Atlas. You’ve got to include Tom Tykwer too.

      • Strong Enough

        no shit sherlock

    • AlanMorlock

      You forget that Zimmer also made the scores for Inception and the first Pirates of the Caribbean.

      • Harry

        Klaus Badelt scored the first Pirates film.

    • peteagassi

      Rises score was the best imo. It’s the movie that sucked.

    • http://albumstreams.com albumstreams.com

      Which reminds me to listen to the awesome “The Village” soundtrack again…I idolize “The Vote”

      • Harry

        That and The Gravel Road are phenomenal.

      • http://albumstreams.com albumstreams.com

        True! It must have been that soundtrack that made me love solo strings. Have you ever heard The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams? Give it a shot, it gives me shivers.

      • Harry

        I gave it a listen and what an impressive piece of music. Thanks for the recommendation.

  • Joseph M

    No war drums and no cold Germanic sequenced string chords? As melody isn’t Zimmer’s friend, ‘not sure what’s left for him to do.

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  • Glorious_Cause

    No more drums.

  • ritchie

    james newton howard chose to not come back for rises nolan invited him back but he said no because of zimmer nolan relationship on inception so it pretty much was howards choice not to come back

    • Diego Fernando Salazar Proaño


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  • The Flobbit

    James Newton Howard makes music. Hans Zimmer makes music.

    Hans Zimmer happens to be better.

    • panagathos

      as a music producer… as a composer he is very mediocre. JNH is a “complete” composer, Zimmer doesn’t have half his talent and musical skills.

      • The Flobbit

        Rain Man, Gladiator, Pirates, and a dozen other movies say you’re wrong.

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  • Eli

    I hated the way the questioner started this interview by asking Mr. Zimmer about the pressure that comes with working with Nolan. I thought the pressure went both ways more so towards Nolan and less toward Zimmer, and I thought so because last time I checked Zimmer has done nothing so far that’s less than satisfying.

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  • cnolan

    I thought I’d just point out that Hans Zimmer didn’t say “…the endless string of sonatas…” That wouldn’t make any sense at all. A sonata is a type of musical composition. What he said was, “the endless string ostinatos.”

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