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Q&A with James Bond film composer David Arnold

By: Rob Coppinger
David arnold casino royale prince charles cinema
FSWL contributor Rob Coppinger attended the special screening of the 2006 Bond film Casino Royale in London with composer David Arnold in attendance for a Q&A before the film commenced.

“I’m fascinated to see what Thomas [Newman] does with SPECTRE,” five times Bond composer, David Arnold, speculated on the next 007 movie, while chatting before the screening of Daniel Craig’s first adventure, Casino Royale.

On 14 June at Leicester Square, London’s Prince Charles Cinema, Arnold, without his signature goatie beard, took part in a question and answer introduction to the 2006 Bond film that was his penultimate composition for the 53 year-old franchise. Reflecting on Casino, he said that it was, “a good opportunity to start again,” with his approach to Bond themes. Having already written, in chronological order, Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999) and Die Another Day (2002), Arnold was known for his electronic style. In response to one question about what impact his Bond music had had, Arnold replied modestly that Bond was so popular that all the films had influenced soundtracks, but he had noticed more use of electronic music with orchestras in recent years.

Explaining the decisions behind Casino’s very different musical style, he attributed it to Daniel Craig and his more physical Bond, compared to Pierce Brosnan and Roger Moore. “What Daniel did was so different, that was a perfect place to start.” Arnold feels that his score was based on the way, “Daniel moved”. He wanted to, “try to make [the score] more muscular, aggressive, and organic.”

With this in mind, Arnold wanted a masculine voice for the theme tune. Of the four previous Bond films he had not co-written the theme for Tomorrow Never Dies or Die Another Day – those themes written and sung by Sheryl Crow and Madonna, respectively. Arnold admits he had not even heard the Madonna theme until he had virtually finished the DAD score and he had already largely written a song, called "I Will Return". (Its melody can be heard in the DAD track, "Peaceful Fountains Of Desire".)

In Arnold’s view, “ideally the composer gets to work on the theme. The DNA of the theme should be in the score.” While the composer should work on the theme, Arnold sees choosing a singer as being integral to the film. “You should cast the singer like you would for the film,” he adds.

With this in mind, he wanted someone with a masculine sound for Casino and approached Chris Cornell, former member of the Seattle based grunge band Soundgarden. Arnold explained that after contacting Cornell he met him and they found that they had both written a song and they played their songs and the theme that was used, "You Know My Name", was finished quite quickly. Arnold describes it as, “a driving song,” and not a, “you’re a dangerous stranger,” ballad, which is how he describes past 007 movie themes.

While the selection of singer and writing of the Casino theme song had not presented major obstacles, Arnold spoke of opposition by Bond movie studio, Sony Pictures, to not using the Bond theme. “Sony were worried about not having the Bond theme [in Casino Royale], but my argument is that he is not James Bond yet.” Arnold’s approach was to slowly build to the use of the 007 theme at the very end of the film, at which point Craig speaks the words, “Bond. James Bond.” for the first time. “Every time he acquired something of the Bond canon I put in something of the [Bond] theme,” he explains, pointing to the scenes where 007 wins the Aston Martin DB5 in a game of poker and when he wears the Tuxedo for the first time. In Arnold’s opinion, the Bond theme has an energy and ferocity that is, “difficult to match”.

It is a theme that has seen various permutations in past Bond films and Arnold described it as strong piece of music. As for the scores of Bond movies that came before his own, Arnold has a very simple view, “I wish I’d done all of them.”

Editor's note:
The Casino Royale screening was part of an ongoing James Bond festival at the Prince Charles Cinema.

Some of David Arnold's soundtracks is available to purchase in FSWL's music shop.

By Rob Coppinger. © 2015 From Sweden with Love.



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