I tend to feel that the score I just finished is my favorite because I am so immersed in it, so I’m going to say ‘Fantastic Beasts’ is my favorite. There are things about it that I think I have done better as a composer and as an orchestrator in ‘Fantastic Beasts.’
James Newton Howard on Creating the Music of “Fantastic Beasts”
We’ve already heard the glorious main theme of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and now with mere hours until the film is released in movie theaters worldwide, composer James Newton Howard has spoken about what it was like to score the film and become part of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world.
Howard reveals that he had some initial nerves to join such a huge project that would be watched by so many people around the world.
I was very nervous. Well, I don’t know if nervous is quite the word. I think to do anything out of one’s comfort zone, there has to be some aspect of it that feels inspiring and challenging in a positive way. Sure, the fear of failure is always a companion in my work, and for a lot of other people. I was very excited by it. I felt fairly confident, without trying to sound self-congratulatory. I think I understood the world, I understood the script, I had great conversations with David Yates, and I felt prepared to dive in.
There are a number of great composers who worked on the Potter films, but the first was the legendary John Williams. As Howard says,
He wrote ‘Hedwig’s Theme,’ which I think is the one that most people probably identify with. The thing about ‘Fantastic Beasts’ is that it’s in the wizarding world, but it’s not a ‘Harry Potter’ movie. It takes place 70 years before Harry comes into being, so while we tip our hat and acknowledge in a respectful and witty wink and a nod kind of way to ‘Hedwig’s Theme,’ the score is composed of all new material.
Now that the first film is completed, does Howard plan on staying with the franchise for the next four films? He would certainly like to think so.
David and I have talked about it. I’m certainly doing the next one; he’s asked me to do it. We had a pretty incredible time together on this one, so I will certainly be doing that one. Beyond that, who knows? I would like to think that I would do all of them and that I would be asked back, but who knows what happens that far in advance.
The composer was already pretty familiar with the wizarding world before being asked to score the film, revealing,
I have kids who are now in their 20s who were devout and committed fans of ‘Harry Potter,’ so I watched most of them [the movies] several times, and all of them at least once.
How long exactly did it take to complete work on the score? He divulges,
In this particular case it took nearly seven months, which is really long. One of the things David wanted when we first talked was a composer who would come onto the film early and in his words, be ‘part of the architecture of the movie.’
It’s a long process, and I would say that when a composer writes, what a composer really does is rewrite. It’s something that can be utterly exhausting, but ultimately really beneficial to the process. I think when the director challenges you in a positive way that the results are inevitably better.
So where does the Fantastic Beasts score rank up against his other work? When asked if he has a favorite score, Howard says,
Are you looking forward to hearing James Newton Howard’s score when Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them arrives in theaters tomorrow?