Billboard/THR Film & TV Music Conference: 'Rush' Composers Discuss High-Octane Soundtrack

Hans Zimmer and the team behind the adrenaline-fueled film's score reveal what it took to create the music for one of the most successful independent releases this year.

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The team behind the score of the adrenaline-fueled, car-racing film Rush revealed what it took to create the soundtrack behind one of the most successful independent releases this year.

In a case study discussion around the music of Rush, moderated by former Billboard West Coast bureau chief Melinda Newman, composers Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe and music producer Peter Asher gave a behind-the-scenes look at the $25 million domestic box-office indie hit.

Hans said he could not emphasize enough how much the collaborative process was made easier by everyone's passion, including Ron Howard, who directed the film about the heated mid-'70s Formula One rivalry between drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda.

"What could be better in life than hanging with your mates … hanging out with a director completely into telling a great story," Zimmer said during the panel, part of the two-day Billboard/Hollywood Reporter Film & TV Conference that kicked off Tuesday (Oct. 29). "Ron did not need to do an indie movie."

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Zimmer composed the score for the film, which also features music by David Bowie, Steve Winwood and Mud.

All three panelists remarked that Howard's ability to keep cool and focused even when the composers improvised was essential in helping to develop the unique sound of the film.

"Scoring things too tight makes it suffocating," said Balfe. "The great thing is that with Ron we can improvise and it stays."

While the film's composers spent a considerable amount of time researching the music of the '70s, the goal wasn't necessarily to create a 1976 rock score. Instead, it was more important to "embrace the spirit of the recklessness," Zimmer said, adding that the score is very much guitar driven, which helps the film achieve high emotional points.

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Understanding each other, Zimmer said, was as integral as trusting each other. For example, Asher "doesn't work like a music supervisor. [He works more] like a record producer … and is very much involved with artists."

One of the film's most illuminating qualities is that it shifts stylistically, which is unorthodox, Zimmer says, adding that the movement of music in just two seconds can evoke a completely different emotion.

"Moviemaking is about everyone rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty," Hans said.

When asked what he loved most about making the movie, composer Zimmer said, "It wasn't The Lone Ranger," referring to the film starring Johnny Depp that bombed at the box office this year. The crowd roared in laughter.

The Billboard/Hollywood Reporter Film & TV Music Conference continues on Oct. 30. A full schedule of panels can be viewed here.