Patrick Doyle Interview
Doyle at Syracuse
Micah: Okay, so Matt and I are joined by one of England's most distinguished film composers, Patrick Doyle, who most of you know as the composer of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Mr. Doyle, thank you very much for joining us today.
Patrick Doyle: It's my pleasure.
Micah: Right off the bat I wanted to ask you, you know, what brought you to Syracuse University in the middle of February? Wasn't there – could there have been another place that you could go that was a little bit warmer?
Patrick: Well, I have a long association with Syracuse through some very good friends I met – my family met - in London. Jim O'Conner and Julia O'Conner, and they have kids and our kids have all grown up, obviously at different ends of the Atlantic together, but we visit each other, and we've seen Niagara Falls with them, and lots surrounding areas. Went to Harriet Tubman's house. I'm very, very interested in history, especially American history. So I love the city, and it reminds me very much – it's a port and industrial town. It reminds me very much of Glasgow. I sort of get the vibe of the place. It's not glamorous, but I love...
[Matt and Micah laugh]
Patrick: ...the realness here. I think it's terrific. And Jim O'Conner has recently – not recently – but for a few years now has a major fundraiser – one of the major fundraisers for the university, so – and we talked to David Rizac here and we all got together and decided it would be nice if – a two-fold thing, if I could come and maybe talk about the work I do to students here at the university, and also there would be an opportunity again to interact with my friends and come to a place I've come to really, really love.
Micah: Yeah, I happen to agree with you. I went to Syracuse for five years and glamorous is probably not the word I would use to describe the weather around there, that's for sure.
Patrick: No, but, you know, it's really a place about the people, always. You could sit in the middle of – some people could sit in the middle of Malibu beach and be utterly miserable, whereas...
Patrick: ...a bunch of friends standing around, that's on the edge of – I don't know – a defused factory overlooking a lake, and then having a few beers with a friend...
Patrick: ...that's the most important thing. So it doesn't matter where you are, you know, it's the people, and what the people are doing, and what they're committed to, and what the ethos is, you know, in the culture and the surrounding – in the surroundings. And the university itself is very impressive, especially the music building. It's also - it's one of these wonderful things we don't have back at home. A sort of self-contained, you know, mini-town sort of university. And, you know, it's a great honor to be asked to – it's a great privilege and honor and responsibility to talk to students because, you know, I'm by no means the oracle. I can only...
Patrick: ...pass on my experiences at life and hopefully they can gain some experience and some preparation for their own path in life.
Micah: Yeah, absolutely, and you just mentioned Crouse College. It shows up a lot of times on television when different events are going on, but it's probably one of the most magnificent buildings I've ever seen.
Patrick: [laughs] Well, it reminds me, I was just saying that the building that reminds me – the stonework reminds me of the stonework in Glasgow. It looks like a red sandstone, I haven't asked any, you know, geologist in the area, but the – I mentioned Glasgow again because the building – the music building itself isn't unlike the high gothic Victorian structures we have. It sort of reminds me of - in a way, it just reminds of the art gallery in Glasgow. It's got the same huge, enormous, confident, you know, architectural aspirations that, you know, a lot of those Victorian buildings did, you know, before the world crashed, you know, eggs of us were warm, you know, pre-Titanic and everything else. So it's got that wonderful, you know - incredibly, kind of, grand statute about it. You know, and the old vibe of the place is great to walk on in the quarters and hear a soprano and a string quartet, and a wind group, and an orchestra, and a horn player just did all that. It really brings it all back to days when I was at the - the Royal Scottish Academy of Music in - in my time.
Films Doyle Has Composed
Matt: Well, Patrick, we're just going to delve into a bit about your profession. You've...
Matt: ...composed films such as Gosford Park, Bridget Jones's Diary...
Matt: ...Sense and Sensibility. I mean, you've composed a lot of great films, and...
Patrick: Well, I've - oh, carry on. Carry on, sorry.
Matt: Oh, sure! No, feel free.
Patrick: Well, I've been very, very lucky and I've - very lucky that I'd been asked to do some - some very high-profile and - and really, really artistically successful and commercially successful films.
Patrick: And I'm very, very fortunate that - and you'll - many of them are a regular, you know, annual events so whatever, and on TV all the time and Carlito's Way, for example is - each generation comes along, especially amongst the guys.
Patrick: It's - it's a classic. It's become a cult classic. You know, and that's - I mean, on all the works of Kenneth Branagh, and the works of Regis Wagnier - a very close friend of mine. Another close friend of mine, you know, I'll be doing a piece for Regis later in the year. He starts working very soon on that - it's a comedy. And...
Patrick: ...and, you know, so I'm very, very fortunate that these are really classy, top-rate filmmakers who all embark on a project, you know, with the best possible stories and I already have got a great commitment. They're immensely committed, as I am, and I'm very fortunate that - not only having produced quality films, that I've been part of it, you know, Alfonso Cuaron is another one, The Little Princess, Great Expectations.
Patrick: Actually, to my delight, that Kanye West has just taken one of my tracks from Great Expectations, and it's now part of his new album 808s & Heartbreak, so I've now got major cult features in my own house. [ laughs]
Patrick: I'm "Mr Cool." My son couldn't believe it. See, I cannot believe. Both my sons couldn't believe it, because one of my sons is into techno - he's a DJ. Did a lot of DJing - he's really, really good. He's a huge fan of Dead Mouse, so he's really, really - he left out of bed, couldn't believe it. "You're joking! Kanye West? Oh my god, dad!"
[Matt and Micah laugh]
Patrick: So that's the wonderful thing about music, you know? You get your chance to shine over and over again so, listen, guys, I have no complaints. I'm very fortunate.
Matt: Well, that's great.
Patrick: If it all stops tomorrow, I've done plenty.
[Micah and Patrick laugh]
The Process of Writing a Score
Matt: When you're approached to do, like, a score, how - what is your process? How long does it take you to do this - this whole scoring thing?
Patrick: Well, Robert Orben approached me five weeks before he needed the score, and mulled over it. But in real terms, I wrote the picture for Gosford Park in two and half weeks.
Matt: Oh my God.
Patrick: And it was - in fact, it was less than that, it was three days on a piano piece - I spent - no, three days on the piano piece, then nine days. Nine working days on the score.
Patrick: So it's twelve working days, spread over.
Matt: Did it take you about nine working days for Goblet of Fire? Maybe? Give or take a day?
Patrick: That took us a year's worth. That was a year's work on and off. Although the actual bulk of the score probably took about two months. But I've spent a year on it, come up with themes and working with the director, so each project's different. With Ken Brannaugh, I used to come in to the script stage of it early to disscuss ideas. So it varies from film to film.
Patrick: And I usually visit the set, if I can visit the set during filming. So, some things, I've got to take a look at is the script and I - in fact, this is something I'm going to talk to David about - I want to do an experiment - but I'm actually going to write a cue in front of the students, if I can.
Matt: Oh, cool!
Patrick: And come up with a couple of scenarios. 'Cause you really don't have to - one shouldn't need a picture...
Patrick: ...a physical picture to look at. As long as you get the story, you can use your own imagination, which is far more powerful than any movie can project to you. So that's something that I'm hoping to try and do here, and so anyway, each film varies. Sometimes it's before the script is sent to me, so it changes.
Matt: Mhm. Now...
Matt: Oh, sorry. Go ahead, Micah.
Micah: I was just going to ask with Goblet of Fire in particular, did you read the book to get some ideas or was it all going to visit the set during filming?
Patrick: Oh no, I read the book. I read the book and I also obviously read the script, and had long discussions with the director. I saw all the designs of all the costumes, all of the sets - had visited the sets, and all the models, so I was very, very involved with that film all the way through.
Matt: Mhm. Did - were there any scores that were particularly difficult to come up with, any themes or anything?
Patrick: Well, each score - well, it's all difficult. Each score is very difficult, but I've learned to just lounge a bit and just soak up as much as possible rather than jump in too early. Just soak up the script, soak all the conversations that come with the director, and all the heads of departments if I've had the opportunity to talk to them. Not every time. But just let it soak in and just not to panic, just relax, because, you know, the earlier it is you panic you learn through experience that something comes up, something twigs, and, you know, I always sit down - I go into work every day right at the same time. By 8:30 I'm going to work, and I don't stop until 6 at night, so I go in and make sure I'm inspired before I come home. [laughs]
[Matt and Micah laugh]
Patrick: That's the job.
Matt: Are there any, like, scores you have to leave out when you're scoring a film, that you feel bad...
Patrick: Any scores - sorry?
Matt: Any scores that are left out in the process that never make it into the film?
Patrick: That's only ever happened to me once. But I think every composer, it happens once in their life. I don't think anyone has ever escaped it. But out of 45 pictures it's only happened to me once.
Matt: Oh okay.
Patrick: So it's - I mean that's - I think that's pretty remarkable considering that's, you know, that's - you're working and playing with people you've never worked with before, it's a pressurized situation, there's time factors, the film gets changed a lot, and you're dealing with lots of people's opinions. It's a very much collaborative process so I'm proud I've managed to hang on in there.
Reactions to His Own Scores
Micah: What feelings go through you when you hear your score with the finished film and you actually go to the theater and sit down and watch?
Patrick: You know, by the time I get to the theater, I've had all my thrills. I've had my thrills when I've first heard my music being played, and getting it right to the picture, the director's reaction to it, and the jamming process, so by the time the movie comes along, I've really moved on. It's just - I enjoy it, but that wonderful thrill kick has happened earlier. Yes, it's been enjoyable to sit with an audience and see their reaction to it, but by then I'm slightly removed from it because I've had all the thrill, the fun, and everything else writing it, and, you know, experiencing it with these people earlier, so I mean, I still enjoy, obviously, going to the - I'll tell you what's interesting. I get a thrill many years later if I happen to walk past a television and up comes a channel, and there's my movie. I get an extra surge then because I've forgotten. I think, "Oh my God, yes, that's not bad!"
[Matt and Micah laugh]
Matt: "Oh my God, that's mine."
Patrick: "That wasn't bad!" So that can hit me but, I mean, I never - I probably listen to my music maybe to learn some things for a week or so after I've written it, but then I never listen to my music again, so I'm always shocked when I hear it years later.
Matt: Mhm. Yeah, that does seem to be a trend with a lot of artists. Once they compose or do a film or something, they move on afterwards.
Patrick: They move on. Yeah, they move on. You have to move on. You listen to it and afterwards you think, I'll do that again, I would do that differently if I was doing it again or whatever. You learn from each one.
The Fantasy Genre
Matt: Mhm. Patrick, recently a lot of your films have been in the fantasy genre, like with Eragon. Is that, like, your preference genre? Or do you have a certain preference to score?
Patrick: I don't mind what I score as long as it's something I particularly enjoy. With regards to fantasy movies, it just so happens that I've done fantasy, I've done science fiction scores. I suppose Harry Potter, you know, people can see what you can do. I mean, you get a big sort of action-fantasy movie, but I mean, Into the West was a small Indie picture.
Patrick: It was full of magic and fantasy. A little princess was a fantastic - and her friend...
Matt: Oh yes.
Patrick: And the two saved the world - tale. So, but, no. It just - I think it's coincidence. I mean, I certainly...
Matt: Is it?
Patrick: I love to read science fiction. I love fantasy stories...
Patrick: ...'cause I love opera. Opera is real fantastic story writing. So, I mean, I adore that. So, it's something I - it crosses over very easily into film.
Matt: Mhm. So you do read a lot of science fiction/fantasy. Have you read all of the Harry Potter novels or just the one, Goblet of Fire?
Patrick: No, I've read two or three of them. I haven't read them all.
Matt: Oh, okay.
Patrick: But the kids have read them all. The kids have - but, you know, I read - I remember - I used to read Azimov when I was younger, and C.S. Lewis, and new Mervyn Peake trilogy...
Patrick: And funny enough, Lord of the Rings. I only ever - I read The Hobbit, and I read the first Lord of the Rings, and I thought The Lord of the Rings was a big Hobbit...
Patrick: ...after I read The Hobbit, you know.
Matt: That's what happened to me. I've actually read The Hobbit the first time, and then it just seemed like it was just one big novel.
Patrick: Yeah. I just thought The Hobbit summed it up for me. But listen, chaps, I have to go now because I want to make schedule. Is there anything you would really particularly like to ask me before I go?
Getting Involved with Goblet of Fire
Micah: Yeah, just really quickly, how you got involved with Goblet of Fire. We know that you have a close relationship with Mike Newell.
Micah: Is that how it all came about?
Patrick: I think so, and John Williams is - I believe wasn't available. He was working on something else. So - and, you know, Mike was - when he asked me he said, "I'm not sure," he said, "about working with another composer's theme." I said, "Well, let's have a look at it," because I saw there was a huge opportunity for a composer to make his or her mark because of the introduction of new characters or the emphasis on established characters. And in the end, I think I only used about twenty seconds worth of John's music and for the very right reasons. It opened and closed the picture, and that's because, you know, the kind of thing that, you know, I wanted to cut. It was a great honor to follow his footsteps. Apart from everything else, there's a great tradition in music, especially one in the classical music, of actually using other people's themes. It's a very honorable and long tradition.
Patrick: So, I think to be precious about it is to be silly, and there was no way I could turn it down because my kids would kill me.
Matt: Right. Okay, Patrick, if we could just...
The Yule Ball Score
Matt: If we could just ask you one more quick question about The Goblet of Fire before we let you go.
Matt: About the Yule Ball, which is everybody on the show - their favorite theme is the Yule Ball in The Goblet of Fire film.
Matt: Was that your favorite film to compose or...
Patrick: You mean the waltz?
Matt: How do you go about like that?
Patrick: The "Harry Potter Waltz" you mean?
Matt: Yeah, "The Potter Waltz," "Neville's Waltz," the entire Yule Ball - the entire ball scene in the film.
Patrick: Well, the Harry Potter theme I wrote during a meeting with the director, believe it or not - "Harry Potter's Waltz."
Patrick: The other one I improvised with the ballet - with Wayne McGregor - I improvised the whole tune, believe it or not, and I said, "I'll write you something else." He goes, "No, that's fine."
Patrick: I improvised with the dancers. He goes - I said, "Do you like this?" He goes, "Yeah, we love it.""Okay, well, keep it."
[Matt and Micah laugh]
Patrick: So that's a true story. That's a true story.
Matt: All right. Well, thank you so much, Patrick Doyle.
Patrick: No, it's my pleasure.
Matt: It was real great talking to you.
Patrick: It's my real pleasure, okay?
Matt: Okay, well...
Micah: Yeah. Thank you.
Matt: ...you have fun hosting a film screening. There are going to be so many people there wanting to ask you so many questions.
Patrick: I'm looking forward to it very much.
Micah: All right. Thank you.
Patrick: Okay. Cheers, guys. Bye!
Patrick: Bye bye!
Written by: Nick, Rhiannon, Aldrin, and PJ