Carlton Cuse and Michael Giacchino Reflect on 'Lost' at Hollywood Reunion Concert

Lost Season 1 Still - H 2015
Courtesy Everett Collection

Lost Season 1 Still - H 2015

It wasn't quite as traumatic as Oceanic Flight 815 ripping apart in the blue skies over the Pacific Ocean, but executive producer Carlton Cuse recalls a difficult landing process for the final stretch of Lost all the same.

Speaking in front of a packed crowd at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood, Cuse reflected on the ending of Lost — a process that included a whole lot of writing, a whole lot of tears, and an impressive amount of tequila. 

"We cried, and it was cathartic," Cuse said, repeating the line throughout his recollection, a mantra of sorts. 

That mantra came to define the ensuing evening. Lost fans had gathered from all across the world (as far away as Hong Kong, according to one audience member) at the Ford, a concrete fortress that almost looks like it could have served as the DHARMA Initiative's rudimentary concert hall, in order to reflect upon the show's beating heart: the soaring score written by Oscar, Emmy and Grammy award-winning composer Michael Giacchino. (As one fan from the crowd shouted out, Giacchino is this close to becoming an EGOT.) It was night two of "We Have to Go Back: The Lost Concert," a limited two-night concert featuring Giacchino conducting the same group of musicians who scored Lost while it was on the air.

Before the music commenced, Cuse and Giacchino fielded questions from the audience, although they made it clear that none of the show's lingering mysteries would receive closure here — effectively saying, "No outrigger questions, please." Instead, they focused on the formative years that brought them both not just to the improbably successful Lost, but also their careers at large. For Giacchino, he was inspired as a child by the music and majesty of Star Wars. For Cuse, it was a special college screening of Airplane! that opened up the world of screenwriting. Ironically enough, both men would later go on to score music for Star Wars, and create an elaborate narrative centering on an airplane crash, respectively. As a wise man once said: "Do not mistake coincidence for fate."

While he wouldn't speak to the questions the series left unanswered, Cuse did address whether or not he would change anything about Lost, which came under fire for its divisive ending. His honest answer should come as no shock to fans of the series: Nikki and Paolo, the season three additions played by Kiele Sanchez and Rodrigo Santoro. Cuse explained that he and co-showrunner Damon Lindelof (who was unable to attend the concert due to filming the series finale of HBO's The Leftovers in Australia) wanted to bring background figures from the Oceanic crash into the foreground.

"We realized right away that we failed," said Cuse. "We didn't like it." 

Their feelings toward the characters were loudly echoed by the show's fan base, but Cuse and Lindelof were well ahead of them, already planning Nikki and Paolo's demise in "Exposé," the controversial episode that buried the two jewel thieves alive. In subsequent years, "Exposé" has become something of a cult favorite among die-hard Lost fans, including Giacchino, who praised the way the show removed the problematic pair. Cuse used that as an example of why he doesn't even regret Nikki and Paolo's existence in the grand scheme of things.

"Damon and I accept that the show is what it is, warts and all," he said. "Everything is a part of it. So ultimately, is there anything I would change? The answer is no."

Following the Q&A, Giacchino and the Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra launched into the music of Lost, performing live to video of the show's very first and last scenes, as well as the iconic raft launch from "Exodus," the first season finale. Curated art pieces and newly edited footage from the series played on the walls of the Ford as Giacchino's score oscillated between mournful emotional impact and the screeching and booming chaos that frequently reverberated throughout Lost's many cliffhangers.

"We're going to end them all just like that," Giacchino joked at one point, after concluding an otherwise hopeful melody with unsettling horns.

To that end, Giacchino pulled the curtain back on how so many of the iconic sounds of Lost were created. One by one, Giacchino led the various parts of the orchestra — the strings sections, the trombones, harpist Gayle Levant and pianist Mark Gasbarro, as examples — in demonstrating the ways they used their instruments in unorthodox ways, to produce unorthodox sounds. He revealed that parts of the percussion sections of the Lost score were created using actual wreckage from the Oceanic airplane, salvaged after filming the pilot. Those pieces were in full effect during the concert.

"There's so much fun you can have with your instruments that no one ever taught you," Giacchino said.

Calling all Lost fans: Get a sneak peek of 'We Have To Go Back: The LOST Concert' with Oscar winning composer Michael Giacchino.

Posted by The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday, September 21, 2016

In between music pieces, Cuse came out on stage to relay stories from his time shooting Lost, calling attention to the show's various veterans sitting in the crowd, including producer Bryan Burk and writer Brian K. Vaughan. On two occasions, he called up former cast members for special readings. Kevin Durand, who played the fierce freighter mercenary Keamy during the show's fourth season and currently stars on Cuse's FX series The Strain, read an excerpt from the season three finale Through the Looking Glass in order to emphasize the informal way in which the show's scripts were written. (Who knew there were so many "F-bombs," as Cuse described, laced throughout the writing of Charlie's iconic death scene?) Mira Furlan, best known as the mysterious French woman Danielle Rousseau, read a message in a bottle that was originally written and recited at a previous Lost concert — a moving piece from the perspective of one of the background Oceanic crash survivors, revealed at the end of the reading to be none other than the previously maligned Nikki. Big laughs ensued.

Indeed, laughter sounded throughout the night, but not as palpably as the deep silences during performances of "Locke'd Out Again," "Live Together Die Alone," "Oceans Apart," and more. By the time the concert drew to a close, following a live performance of the final scene of Lost and an encore performance of season six's sideways universe anthem "LA X," Cuse was ultimately proven right: in the end, we cried, and it was cathartic.