| Philip Seymour Hoffman with Catherine Keener in Capote
What made you take up a project like Capote, being made by largely unknown people, after having worked with big names like Denzel Washington and Ang Lee'
I worked with the producer Caroline Baron on Monsoon Wedding, so we had a history from then. She was very excited about the project. So I looked at a few early scenes while they were shooting, and I was totally convinced that her excitement was justified.
What kind of research went into the movie, set in a certain period and more importantly in the setting of a small town like Kansas'
Musically we didn't want to use any instruments that were anachronistic, that would have jumped out from the period mood that (director) Bennett (Miller) was creating. So, we kept to piano and a small string section. That said, there is nothing period about the writing at all. I was more concerned with the internal life of Capote. His external life of a witty and popular man about town is obvious from the picture.
What was the basic brief that Bennett Miller gave you before you set about scoring the music for the film'
Our goal was very simple: to create music that would be the equivalent of the prose that Capote himself wrote in his work In Cold Blood. His writing is clean, simple, perfect... Not one word too many or in the wrong place. It is a deceptively simple style.
It is actually much easier to write music for a big orchestra with everyone playing at once, but it is way more difficult to write a piece that only has five notes. They have to be exactly in the right place, exactly played right, and the perfect notes.
So, what were the primary emotions that you tried to bring out in those few notes'
The music is concerned with several things' Creating the sense of the call to Capote from this tragic event that happened so far away from his life in NYC. A very personal thing that his friends didn't understand, so the music had to be very internal, something that gave the impression that only he could hear it.
Then there is the sense of fate pushing everything to a foregone and tragic conclusion; again very, very subtle, not a drum beat or anything, but just this circular pattern from the strings that gives that impression.
Finally there was the sense of recognition, even love, that Capote felt in Perry Smith. The rest of the music is very icy and atmospheric, but this theme is increasingly warmer and the emotional heart of the film. Overall though, the music is very stark, like the cold Kansas prairie landscapes, and the autumnal colours that Bennett captured in the cinematography.
Did you read the Truman Capote biography on which the film is based or his books or watch In Cold Blood for reference work'
I didn't watch the film for reference although I had seen it before, but I knew it had nothing to do with what we were trying to accomplish. The book In Cold Blood on the other hand was absolutely central to our goal and I was amazed by the writing.
It would be impossible to translate. Which is why I don't think Capote is very well known outside of America. I'm not even sure if it translates out of American into English! I think it gave me the best insight into the man and his work, better than any biography.
What was the most special thing about your music and your experience of working in Capote'
It was a very difficult film to write for, and I think everyone involved felt the obligation to give everything they had to make a profound film. The fact is, writing and working at that level is not fun, it's actually rather painful, and I think we all felt that pain! But the reward is a film where all the elements are pretty much perfect and that is a very rare accomplishment, and one I am very proud to be a part of.
When you were writing the background score how much of an impact did Philip Seymour Hoffman's Oscar-winning act have on you'
I knew that he went through the same struggle that I was going through to get to the place of his outstanding performance, and so I was inspired to try to reach as deeply in and reach as high as I could. When I met him I realised he was seemingly completely opposite in every way to the character he was playing in the film, and didn't even look anything like the person on the screen, so I was all the more knocked out by his work.
Mychael Danna is one of the top composers in Hollywood having scored the music for films like The Perfect Storm, 8 MM, Kama Sutra, Girl, Interrupted, Monsoon Wedding, The Antwone Fisher Story, Vanity Fair and Being Julia.