24 October 2022 582 Views

Q and A: JOHN ALTMAN. FILM COMPOSER. MUSIC MASTER!

by James Murphy

 

1: The obvious start. And we may touch on it again. BOND. SIXTY YEARS! You have been part of that legacy. How does that feel? What does Bond mean to you? 

 

I’m flattered, delighted and proud to be a cog in the wheel. The first Bond film I saw was From Russia with Love at a local fleapit. The projectionist showed reel 7 before reel 2 so it was like watching a French ‘nouvelle vague’ movie, with characters disappearing and coming back to life. To be part of Bond, Monty Python and Titanic is pretty damn impressive!! Working on No time To Die was like coming home to the Bond family.

 

2: You did a lot of work on Miss Marple, for television. Without bias here, IS The Joan Hickson version definitive? Or does Margaret Rutherford still own the role? 

 

Loved them both. Agatha Christie favoured Joan and hoped she would one day play Miss M. Rutherford of course was Rutherford and has always been one of my go to Brit actors. Interestingly, I had this same conversation with Dave Vanian of the Damned (surreal??)

3: Shall we Dance: Did you work around the dance moves or just go with what worked and let the choreographers worry about the rest?

 

I wrote and recorded the music pre filming and pre choreography – so they were stuck with what I gave them!!

 

4: What music do you unwind with, yourself? Ditto, fave movies/books etc? Hobbies?

 

MoviesThief of Bagdad, Adventures of Robin Hood, Double Indemnity, Duck Soup, Spinal Tqp, Galaxy Quest, Court Jester.

Music Delius, Ravel, Walton, Elgar, 1920s and 30s big bands and jazz, Bill Evans, Earth Wind and Fire, Steely Dan, Miles Davis

Booksa degree in English Lit means all the great Victorian novels, jazz and movie biographies for relaxation,

Hobbiesplaying saxophone, writing for my big band, watching (and formerly playing) cricket, listening to, and learning from, great music across the board

5: What tech items can you not live without?

 

Usual iphones, ipads and computers. Resisted Sibelius for many years and wrote by hand. Finally caved in and now it’s indispensable!

 

6: Who, in history / personal experience etc has inspired you most in life? And in passing that mantle/legacy, where might you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?

 

My uncles, bandleaders Woolf and Sid Phillips. All the great jazz saxophonists, my friend Quincy Jones. In 5-10 years? Hopefully still in the mix somehow!

 

 

7: GOLDENEYE. You helped inject some traditional ‘Bond’ sound to proceedings. But does Eric Serra get a bad press on what was in places a fairly mainstream score? Run/Shoot/Jump, for example, as a cue, got used on the trailer for Air Force One!

 

Eric and I were hired on the back of our collaboration on Leon – The Professional. The producers wanted that energy and sound for the ‘new’ Bond.

They realized that they needed ‘Bond moments’ that Eric wasn’t prepared to deliver – he had only ever worked with his schoolmate Luc Besson, who accepted anything Eric wrote, so he wasn’t used to producers, directors and editors commenting on the music.

The score was ahead of its time and certainly holds up today but it’s no coincidence that every subsequent Bond film has gone for traditional James Bond music. Monty Norman, who sang with my jazz quintet, told me his contract specified the use of the Bond theme, and I prevented a lawsuit!!

 

 

8: NO TIME TO DIE. Did you see THAT ending, coming? Was it earned? And WHERE can BOND 26 possibly go, from here? How about a 90s period piece, Cavill as Bond prime, Pierce back in a coda…Idris as M, Hugh Grant as the baddie..

 

I didn’t – when I arranged some of the cues and conducted the brass for my pal Hans Zimmer, we only saw the sequences we worked on and of course signed an NDA at the time. Be interesting to see where they go from here – having got Pierce his big movie break I’d love to see him do an encore!!

 

9: The other John Altman. Ever been seen in same place at same time? Often get confused with Nick Cotton? Would you play a gangster in EASTENDERS?

 

We’ve been pals since 1988. I was John Altman first!! Occasionally we do music events – John Altman presents John Altman. We never specify who presents whom!!! My acting skills are less than non-existent!

 

THANK YOU, MR ALTMAN! 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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