'Wonder Woman' Composer on the Scene He Rewrote Over and Over

Rupert Gregson-Williams breaks down his biggest challenges and triumphs from the score.
Warner Bros./Photofest
'Wonder Woman'

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Warner Bros.' Wonder Woman.]

It's the scene in which a hero is born. 

In Wonder Woman's most crucial moment, Diana (Gal Gadot) decides to stand up for innocent people and cross a No Man's Land at the German front. The moment was so important that the only scene director Patty Jenkins added in reshoots was one to help build up the tension leading up to No Man's Land, thus making it an even bigger emotional payoff.

As composer Rupert Gregson-Williams tells Heat Vision, the No Man's Land scene was his most challenging to write. To get it just right, he wrote the music for the scene "three or four times" before settling on the powerful version heard in the film (you can listen to the entire score below). Gregson-Williams also reveals his thoughts on where a potential sequel could go and how writing for a female protagonist changed the type of score he delivered.

What were some of the things you and Jenkins spoke about early on?

I worked with Patty very closely before writing a note. Just spending a lot of time with Patty, getting to know the character from Patty's point of view, it was a trust thing, really. She didn't want me writing anything until she really knew I knew Diana. Because she'd been on this ride for a long time developing the movie and just wanted to make sure. She had the idea of this journey that Diana takes and there were a number of ways I could have gone about it. I could have made it more aggressive and more of this warrior princess — and Patty was keen I avoided that.

The No Man's Land scene is a fan-favorite part of the movie, and it stands out on the soundtrack as well. What was your approach to that?

That is probably in the movie one of the most iconic moments to me. It's a great bit of filmmaking. But also, it's the moment when she first understands some of the strengths she has as a superhero. If we picture her being a man, our protagonist is male, I imagine we might have gone about it in a more aggressive way. It might have been a little bit vicious. I loved the way that Patty directed this scene — this is wear Diana learns what she has. And it's done from a defensive point of view for the most part until the end of the scene. Musically, I did write that scene three or four times before the version you heard. It was the most difficult scene for me to write, only because there were so many different ways of playing it. Patty was so patient with me, just persevered to make me understand the scene better and better until I nailed it. When you hear the music, it's a building crescendo of emotion. It's a journey of understanding, rather than running across No Man's Land and going to beat it up.

What other challenges did you tackle?

Really, what was difficult was to try to find the balance of the moments where she uses some of her powers or where she learns to use them, so there are some big battles on Themiscyra. She doesn't take part in that battle in an enormous way. She views it, and this is before she's really understood what powers she holds. Where in Diana's mind is she? Where does she understand her powers to be? That was a difficulty for me with pacing, where she began, and then the unconquerable warrior at the end, where we get to. I found that was the most tricky.   

In addition to the great action scenes you scored, there are some nice romantic moments. What was the key there?

There is a love story, but it comes from a very naive place and quite an innocent place on both of their parts, really. Diana, she hasn't come across a man before. And Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) — I felt that his character had some hardships in the war. He had not known comfort and at one point in the movie, he talks about what married people do. He tells Diana they have breakfast together, they read the paper. She asks, "Is that really what they do?" He says, "I have no idea," because there's been war and his adult life has really been that way. So I wanted to keep it naive, and also there's a scene in the middle which is the most loving, and Patty talked to me about love. When you first get together with someone and you are attracted to them, you aren't all over them and "Hey, how ya doing?" You stand apart from each other and you size each other up, and you can be a little unsure and a little scared of it. That's the way she wanted to play it.

What were your inspirations for the villains, Ludendorff and Dr. Maru?

It's a slightly Germanic feel to it. And I felt they were evil and they slithered quite a lot. Musically, it was a slithering figure upwards met by a slithering figure downwards. I felt it was the two of them conniving and planning their evil deeds. That was great fun. That was one of the first things I wrote, too. I knew I wanted it to be two lines that slither together.  

How did you approach your work? Did you simply watch a cut of the movie over and over?

In this scenario, I came in a couple of months before Patty had a final cut of the movie. I was there when she was still editing. I watched the movie with her a couple of times and spent a lot of time chatting and pouring over ideas before I even wrote a note. I have the film available to me all the time. I tended to watch it, maybe once a week all the way through with the music I was writing, just to feel how it was in context. After watching a film four or five times, you have an overall arc and story picture in one's head of where you are going and where you are coming from and what you're aiming for. I tend to write in a certain area, always in mind of where I've been and where I want to go. And where the character is at that spot, probably very much like an actor.  

If you work on the sequel, what more do you feel there is to explore with Diana?

If Patty asks me back and we were with Wonder Woman again, I feel there's a long way to go with her, because as I said earlier, it was a journey where we didn't want to get to the warrior princess too early, and in fact get there quite late. I feel the next film, she will know what she's capable of, and that's a very different attitude for the character and musically to reflect that.  

The Wonder Woman soundtrack is available now via WaterTower Music.

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