'Truth' Composer on How the Music Differed From His 'Avengers,' 'Furious 7' Scores (Q&A)

Brian Tyler tells THR about composing the music for Paul Walker's final scene in the 'Fast and Furious' franchise: "It was pretty heavy."

Composer Brian Tyler knows a thing or two about switching film genres.

Tyler composed the scores for three films that hit theaters in 2015: Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron and the James Vanderbilt-directed drama Truth, which opened Friday in limited release. It stars Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett in the story of Dan Rather's 60 Minutes scandal.

Tyler has composed the scores for the Fast and Furious films since the third installment, along with writing the scores for such hits as Now You See Me and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), plus other Marvel films including Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World.

The composer spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about composing music for Paul Walker's final scene in the Furious franchise, how it feels to have written the music that is used for the Marvel film logo and why he was excited to work on Truth after doing a number of more action-driven films. To hear selections from Tyler's Truth score, click here.

At which point in Truth's development did come on board?

I've known the director for years, over a decade. He was writing all these great screenplays, like Zodiac and Spider-Man, and he really wanted to direct. We'd actually talked about this story a long time ago, when the events actually took place, and when [60 Minutes producer] Mary Mapes wrote the book, he really took to it, and I thought it was great, too. I do a lot of different kinds of movies, but the last bunch have been toward the fantasy, action-adventure [genre]. Before I did those films, I did dramas. For me, it was great to be able to come back around and do something that was a contemporary tale of recent history and something that fascinates me. 

How did you decide on the instrumentation for the film? 

[On] this [movie], there's no explosions, no special effects really — it's pretty much a dialogue-driven film sonically, so you write around that, and you have the ability to get very, very quiet. The piano and the harp, being that they're instruments that are played with the fingers, I wanted that to be the journalistic side, kind of like typing. And you have these things that we call ostinatos, which are repeating notes in patterns. The whole movie starts with that, actually — harp and piano together doing this patterned, written-ish feel. And then the cellos and the violins and the strings, they have the more emotional component [for] Mary Mapes' journey throughout the story. And then the third aspect of it, the very important solo trumpet throughout the film that represents the military and Washington D.C. establishment.

Brian Tyler conducts the 'Truth' score. Photo credit: Elementzworld.

What was the toughest scene in the film to work on?

When I first saw the film, there was no temp music whatsoever — it was a completely silent film, except for the dialogue. You have to find [an] anchor, and that anchor for me would be character themes. The best way as a composer that I can somehow instill a history with the person on screen — when you really haven't had much time with this character — is to have melodies that are thematic. So I would rely on these themes to hopefully get the audience to care about the characters, in a way that they feel like they have more history with the characters than just the 90 minutes that they've been watching them on screen. 

How much input did you get from the director?

Jamie is a huge score fanatic — he knows a lot about it. I've actually worked with a lot of people lately that are very much score aficionados — Kevin Feige at Marvel and [Iron Man 3 director] Shane Black, and Bobby Cohen and Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci [on] Now You See Me. Working with James, he would say, "Well, here's what we have for this scene, but I really would like what's going on in Cate Blanchett's head to be conveyed. And what's going on in her head? I will tell you because we're leaving that a bit open because we left the dialogue out here on purpose." And the film was really constructed with music in mind in that way. The last whole chunk of the film has no dialogue — it's just music that plays.

Which Marvel character's theme has been your favorite to work on?

That's a tough one! (Laughs.) All of a sudden I have a four-way tie. I love the Thor theme — I felt that came out really well. And the Iron Man theme. The question-mark characters have always been fun for me, like Loki's theme, and in the Avengers, Vision's theme. The theme for Vision is very enigmatic and different. Definitely one of my proudest things is getting to write the logo for Marvel, which plays in front of their movies. Having collected Marvel comics growing up, it's overwhelming to be asked to write the Marvel theme. (Laughs.)

What are your memories of working with Paul Walker on the Fast and Furious franchise?

I always knew him as the very approachable movie star that didn't know he was a movie star. He just had his head on his shoulders. It was really sad. I was out on set two days before he passed away — when the accident happened, it was devastating. I had music in the first movie — I didn't start scoring them until the third one. Both of our careers kind of built over the same time frame — we're the same age. So there was really a sense of disbelief about the whole thing.

How did his death affect your approach to writing the Furious 7 music?

I really tried hard to do something that was a tribute and a celebration for Paul. The final scene of the movie was the last piece I conducted in the movie, and I had written the scene for the two characters Brian and Mia — him and Jordana Brewster — and it's the last time you'll see them on screen together. It was pretty heavy, and that was it. It was the end of an era.

Email: Ryan.Gajewski@THR.com
Twitter: @_RyanGajewski