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Werewolf picks up where Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness left off in terms of the horror genre, as the Disney+ special presentation is an homage to the genre’s filmmaking style of the 1930s and ‘40s. The black-and-white feature, which runs nearly 53 minutes long, follows Jack Russell (Gael Garcia Bernal), who, along with other monster hunters, arrives at Bloodstone Temple in order to compete for the estate’s most sought-after relic. The subsequent hunt leads to perhaps Marvel’s scariest and bloodiest tale to date, and much to the surprise of Werewolf’s director-composer Giacchino, the film still landed a TV-14 rating.
“We had always assumed it would be TV-MA, but I wasn’t always involved with what was happening on that end in terms of ratings and all of that,” Giacchnio tells The Hollywood Reporter. “But I am sure you are absolutely right that the black and white did help keep us within a certain range.”
From Marvel and DC to Star Wars and Pixar, Giacchino has composed music for just about every major franchise there is, but his first love was always filmmaking. After helming a couple shorts in 2018 and 2019, his feature directorial debut was only a matter of time. (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines feature-length as a minimum of 40 minutes.)
“In this town, whatever you do first, that’s what you do forever. Even on Twitter, people would say, ‘Wait, I thought you were a composer. I don’t understand this,’” Giacchino says. “And it’s like, ‘Well, no one is one dimensional.’ So I will forever be thankful to Kevin Feige for allowing me this opportunity to show that I do other things and enjoy other things.”
In a recent interview with THR, Giacchino (pronounced Juh-key-no) also discusses how he heard the voices of his long-time collaborators in his head while directing, including J.J. Abrams, Matt Reeves and Brad Bird.
Michael Giacchino, Werewolf by Night is a bloody good time.
(Laughs.) We need that quote.
I submitted it to Disney! Anyway, while watching, I assumed it was Marvel Studios’ first R-rated or TV-MA project, but according to the Internet, it’s TV-14. Did the black and white help counter the blood and keep the rating at TV-14?
You know what? Maybe. You could be right. I’m not sure. We had always assumed it would be TV-MA, but I wasn’t always involved with what was happening on that end in terms of ratings and all of that. And so I’m not sure, but I am sure you are absolutely right that the black and white did help keep us within a certain range.
Some people might be surprised to see a composer directing, but composers are storytellers, too. So has directing always felt like a logical progression for you?
Yeah, it has. When I was nine years old, my dad gave me his 8mm camera, and so I’ve been making movies since I was nine years old. Literally, all I did growing up was make movies. And then I went to film school and studied music as well, which I loved. And you’re right. Music is storytelling. It’s all about storytelling. When I’m scoring a film, I’m helping to tell that story, and the music I’m writing is there to help you understand how those characters are feeling at any given moment. Basically, how would I feel if I [the composer] were Jack Russell [Gael Garcia Bernal] in that moment? So that’s the music I write, and it’s all storytelling.
In this town, whatever you do first, that’s what you do forever. If people try to switch gears, midstream, it’s always, “Whoa, what is happening here?” Even on Twitter, people would say, “Wait, I thought you were a composer. I don’t understand this.” And it’s like, “Well, no one is one dimensional.” I’m sure you do other things that you love, right? We all have these things. So I will forever be thankful to Kevin Feige for allowing me this opportunity to show that I do other things and enjoy other things. I’m not going to quit doing music, but I like doing this as well.
Did director Michael Giacchino have plenty of notes for composer Michael Giacchino? Did it take a minute to get used to this new dynamic of only answering to yourself?
Yes, in that way, it was a lot like Moon Knight because I was constantly arguing with myself. (Laughs.) “Are you sure you want to do this? Come on, you’ve done this for years. Try this instead.” So there was that feeling of, “Oh, I don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of and collaborate in that way.” But I did find that person in my editor, Jeff Ford, who is one of the greatest editors on the planet. He and I have worked on five movies together over the years, so it was great to have him fill the role that I would normally have when I’m working with a director. He’s someone I could get honest feedback from, and I’m thankful for him filling that role.
It actually made the editorial process a lot more interesting. As he was cutting a scene, I would go, “Wait, I have an idea,” and I would run into the other room to write a piece of music. And then I’d bring it back in and we’d put it up against picture. And then he would go, “Oh, this gives me an idea for a cut.” Or I would go, “Let me change the music.” So it was a fun experience, and it really took me back to when I was making films with my friends, as a kid. We really had a lot of freedom to do what we wanted to do.
Some of my favorite scores in recent memory were initiated prior to production starting, such as your The Batman score. Is it pretty rare to be able to write before production? Is it impractical on most projects?
It is. It’s very rare. It is impractical because I like to wait to see the movie before I score it. Sometimes, if I write a piece of music based on reading a script and then I watch the final film, I’m like, “Oh, that’s not what I thought it was. Tonally, emotionally, it’s very different.” So I try to wait until I see something to be on board. But with The Batman, Matt [Reeves] and I know each other so well. After reading the script, he and I would talk about the story so much, and it was a much easier process to go, “I know what this feels like to me.” So I wrote that theme very early on in the process.
With Werewolf, I actually wrote the theme prior to shooting and was able to mess around with it while we were shooting. It became a part of the process of making the film, especially in editorial, where we had everything there beforehand, which was really nice. And to be able to write concurrently while editing, as opposed to waiting for a cut and then scoring it, was very helpful. So it doesn’t always happen, but it’s nice when it does. On Jupiter Ascending, I wrote almost that whole score prior to shooting, and the Wachowskis would play it on set for the actors. So it’s really great when that can happen because it does help inform how you think about something and how it comes to life as you’re making it.
Whether it was Brad Bird or J.J. Abrams or Matt Reeves, did the voices of your past directors come to mind at all while you were directing Werewolf? Could you feel their influence?
Constantly! But it was more like, “Why are you doing that? Don’t do that.” It was like someone behind me going, “No, no, no. Face it that way, or do this. Or add a shake to it.” The years I spent with J.J., Brad, Matt or Pete Docter, I absorbed a wealth of information because I love filmmaking. Like I said, I’ve been doing it since I was nine. I just love it. So I would go to their sets and just be there for fun. I loved watching them work, but in doing that, I did learn a lot over the years. It was like getting a master class from really amazing directors. I’m sure if you asked them, they’d be like, “We don’t know what we’re doing. We’re just doing whatever we can.” In the end, that’s what it feels like. No one ever really knows. It’s a best guess sort of scenario, but having said that, I have learned an immense amount from each of them over the years. So I’ll forever be thankful for the years I spent writing music for their films.
Well, in closing, I hope you get to direct more because you’ve earned it with Werewolf by Night. And by the way, thank you for your Lost score. It’s been a big help over the years.
Honestly, that show is one of the favorite things I’ve ever worked on, so thank you.
Werewolf by Night premieres Oct. 7 on Disney+. This interview was edited for length and clarity.
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