Elliot Goldenthal at 1AM
On December 1, 1993, I did a phone interview with Elliot Goldenthal, who I was excited to talk to because of his scores to Alien3 and Demolition Man. He was the “exciting new kid” (even though he was hardly a kid) and I fell into that geek trap of wanting to have the newest, bestest thing: a scoop with the exciting new film scoring voice! (I was 19.)
I know it was December 1st because I have my notebook from that period of time—I was a sophomore at Amherst College—and it’s on there as 11/30/93:
But the interview was technically on 12/1/93—here’s why:
I called Elliot at his studio in New York—how I got the number, I don’t recall, but I think it was legit, not an ambush—and introduced myself and asked if I could interview him. He was perfectly polite and reasonable. This was sometime in the mid to late afternoon, and he said, “Sure...how about one?”
And I said...“One...AM?”—and he said yes, like it was perfectly normal to do an interview in the middle of the night.
This was actually fine for me—I was a college student and used to working late.
So I rang him back at 1AM, and we did the interview, and it was quite good. He’s very clear, articulate and intelligent—a great interview, I think.
You can download it yourself from our free back issue archive, it’s in the winter 1994 #41/42/43 issue (I used to do double and triple issues to get back on schedule).
I didn’t do a lot of interviews personally for FSM—mostly because I hated transcribing—but I remember being excited to do this one, and proud of the piece.
So here’s the thing that I didn’t print in the issue, for obvious reasons. I don’t want to make too much of it, but Elliot sure sounded like he was...TOTALLY DRUNK!
He had been very clear and lucid in the afternoon, but for the interview, he was slurring. And I remember some of his colleagues saying that was basically how he worked: getting drunk and pounding away on his keyboard all night.
As an intoxicated person, he was pretty cerebral. (Obviously I wasn’t there to give him a breathalyzer...but I was a student at Amherst College: I definitely knew what drunk people sounded like.)
I remember asking about the new-agey bits of his Demolition Man score, and his response was to laugh out loud, and say, “Well, I just thought of it as a joke. Someone asked me, what does the music of the future sound like? And I said, the music of the future sounds like the music of the 1980s, because everybody knows the 1980s were the future.”
He said it in such a dry, sly, knowing way, I was charmed. And I have always remembered that answer.
But it was a little unnerving that he seemed wasted.
I used to find it funny to tell this story...but now, in print, I’m not enjoying it, or even wondering if I should share this.
I looked around to see if I could find any other evidence to corroborate Elliot’s work habits or personal life. I did find this piece about a serious brain injury from an accident in 2005, which is also mentioned in the paper of record, The New York Times.
So, I don’t know. But it happened. And it was 28 years ago...so who cares?
By the way, take a look at my handwritten question about Demolition Man: “How do you seriously score such a dumb movie?” I’m such a jerk.
In writing up this piece, I blew my own mind. I had always remembered doing this interview freshman year, because I visualized myself in my freshman dorm room (when I had two roommates).
But the date, 12/1/93, means I must have been a sophomore (in my own room)—which explains why I wouldn’t be disturbing anybody at 1AM.
So I totally remembered wrong...and I’m not even drunk.
One last thing. In looking through my notebook from 1993, I am reminded of how we lived and worked before email. (We had email accounts at Amherst, but we had to go to the computer center to use them; I seldom used mine.) All of my FSM work was conducted via mail, fax (to a point) and over the phone.
Nowadays I barely have any paper around—I keep track of what I am working on based on my email inbox (as most people do). But in 1993, you had to write it down: who owed you a call, who you needed to get back to.
I like the new way better.
For my Amherst friends, check out the cover of that notebook I was using:
Hastings, on Pleasant Street, apparently still there: