Henry Jackman composed the score for Captain America: Civil War, and Collider sat down with the composer for an interview. The talked about his second time collaborating with the Russo Brothers, working on the music, whether Marvel had creative input, what instruments he used, and more. Read a few highlights below and head over to here for the full interview.
On how long the score took to make
No, it was months. If you added it up, it might have been four or five months, I think. Something like that. I’d read the script ages before because that existed. Then, I saw the movie maybe five or six months before the movie came out. Especially with a big film like that, it’s about 115 minutes of score, and there’s a lot of characters and a lot of musical challenges to figure out. So, you need about that much.
On whether Marvel was involved
Not really. No. Kevin Feige has a really good judgment for picking people he wants to do the job and do it the way he wants it done. And then, the fact that he picked Joe and Anthony Russo, when he first selected them to do Captain America 2, I thought was quite a bold move. It’s not like they’d done millions of films. Once he’s confident that they really are on top of what’s supposed to be happening, which they absolutely were, he really trusts them. The whole process of getting the score done is not just Kevin. Kevin, the head of the studio, would listen to stuff, but as long as he’s not hearing anything that he doesn’t think is right, he’s very happy to let his directors execute the vision. There wasn’t too much. That’s not to say if things were going horribly wrong, I’m sure he’d have something to say, but he’s got the wisdom to know if things are working, let it progress. If things aren’t working, step in and do something about it.
On how he crafts his sound
I have no idea. (Laughs) Basically, the first stage is when you read the script. I find scripts very helpful. You think it’s a bit counterintuitive, because until you’re really seeing something brought to life, how would you get inspired? But actually, when you read a script, and if it’s a good one, you’re beginning to get the secret structural information on what’s important and what themes are important. It’s a 200-page long thing and it has all these details, but as you read it, you’re starting to go, “Okay, fine.” There are all these different things, but what’s the most important thing? Obviously, Captain America, then the Civil War. What are the themes that are important? Okay, Spider-Man is showing up. Black Panther is showing up. You start to get these sort of structural indicators of what’s going to be important in the music. Now that doesn’t equate yet to having written music, but you’re starting to figure out why you’re writing this and what it’s for. I don’t even know quite how it works really. I just start watching it, and I start writing and try and find something that both thematically and tonally suits that character or that idea.
On instrumentation choices
Sometimes you’ll make a very self-conscious choice, and like I said, this movie was more orchestral. Basically, coming out the gates, it’s the symphonic Western orchestra as we understand it – an enormous great string section, triple woodwinds, full brass section. I actually used a bit of choir. So, that’s the full symphony orchestra at your disposal as a composer. Obviously, in heroic writing, brass is going to take a real front seat in that. Then, you get into the extra colors that you can think about that could potentially help characterization.
With Zemo, for instance, I used a lot of these rather unusual tuned bells. We filled the whole of our studios one day with every known manufacturer of obscure tuned percussion and also a cimbalom, because I wanted a slightly otherly sound, and also the cimbalom with roots a little bit in a feeling of East Europe. Some of the names of these bells that we had I’d never even heard of. I sent the musician some of the files because immediately I was writing, and I said to him, “Do me a favor. Just so we get inspired, bring every conceivable type of tuned bell you’ve ever heard of. He took this quite literally, because when we got there, it was an entire room, like a sort of laboratory, with instruments I’d never seen nor heard of, and they were fascinating. We used those for Zemo along with the cimbalom.
For Black Panther, to get a slightly extra color, I actually used a combination funnily enough of these African woodwinds for when he’s talking about his ancestors. Also, muted orchestral trombones were very useful for Black Panther because it brought his character into the grandeur of the symphony orchestra, but there’s a slightly vengeful, serrated sound to muted trombones if you pick the right kind of mood. That was very handy. So yeah, you can tinker. If you use certain colors outside of the Western symphony orchestra, it can be very handy. There are a few electronic textures, not too many, but there are just a few subtle electronic textures around the place to help out.