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Brooklyn native Elliot Goldenthal developed his musical talents under the watchful eye of no less than Aaron Copland and John Corigliano, and clearly he paid attention in class. Ever since his first major film score (for Gus Van Sant’s Drugstore Cowboy in 1989), he’s developed a challenging and unorthodox body of work that encompasses not just film, but the stage and concert hall as well. The longtime partner of stage & film director Julie Taymor, Goldenthal has stayed fiercely true to his unconventional style in a career that’s still going strong.

Not unlike his contemporary Howard Shore, Goldenthal used a series of genre scores (such as Pet Sematary, Alien 3 and Demolition Man) as an opportunity to incorporate increasingly progressive and experimental techniques into his music. With 1994’s Interview with the Vampire, the composer found his first major success -- but it was not without drama getting there.

Prior to its release, Neil Jordan’s adaptation of Anne Rice’s bestseller faced intense entertainment media scrutiny thanks to the controversial casting of Tom Cruise in the lead role of the vampire Lestat. Composer George Fenton, who’d scored three prior films with Jordan, was originally hired to score the film, and was midway through recording his music when a nervous production team decided to replace him, giving Goldenthal and his musical team, headed by orchestrator Robert Elhai, just 10 days to come up with a fresh approach.

In typical Hollywood fashion, Fenton wasn’t immediately informed of his departure. According to some reports, music contractor Emile Charlap was put in the unenviable position of scheduling both composers’ recording sessions, despite knowing full well Fenton’s music wouldn’t be used. (Unofficial versions of Fenton’s partially recorded score have floated about for years; Fenton later recycled some of his Vampire material for his subsequent score for Stephen Frears’ film Mary Reilly.)

Goldenthal, for his part, responded in grand fashion, bridging his distinctively dissonant sound with a more traditionally classical melodic backbone, provided at the outset by an ethereally eerie boys’ choir. A particularly distinctive moment comes midway through the film, as vampire Louis (Brad Pitt) encounters Santiago (Stephen Rea), who suddenly demonstrates his own vampiric abilities by dancing wordlessly up the walls of a tunnel. Amidst the Gothic sturm und drang of Goldenthal’s score proper, the blackly comic setpiece “Santiago’s Waltz” provides an unexpected reprieve from the gloomy darkness, and yet retains the score’s overall sense of grim, tragic foreboding.

Goldenthal’s was a rare horror score to earn an Oscar nomination, the composer’s first; he would later take the statue home for his work on Taymor’s 2002 biopic Frida. And he would go on to score four more films for director Jordan, including Michael Collins, The Butcher Boy, In Dreams and The Good Thief. Interview with the Vampire remains a perennially popular score from the composer, and has stayed in print ever since its release in 1994.

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for this installment.


The Moment in Question:

Click [here] to listen to a sample
of “Santiago's Waltz,” composed
by Elliot Goldenthal

Elliot Goldenthal portrait
... Elliot Goldenthal
... ...

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What do you think?

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for this installment.

Interview with the Vampire album cover image

Awesome Websites!

Soundtrack available at SAE

Next Installment:

Paul Giovanni goes dancing around
the maypole. The Wicker Man

about the author


Howlin' Wolf  
Welcome to the 4th Season of 13 Chills!

This is one of those roaring scores that can be repetitive in a good way. I had trouble in the start while they were making this film, I had a hard time excepting Tom Cruise as a lead. Honestly I refused to watch, then by chance I had seen it and was very happy with the overall. The score was rousing in depth and I still will refer to it as one of my favorites. Welcome back and have a great 4th year of CHILLS...  
Jeff   Glad to be back for another season of 13 Chills!!

I don't recall the score for Interview With The Vampire, but your description makes me want to give it a listen. The sample for "Santiago's Waltz"ť didn't really do it for me but I am hoping that it is different enough.  

David Kessler  
This movie had its thunderus premiere before Christmas 1994 and I remember going in with high hopes about Cruise portrait of the vampire Lestat but also intrigued about how the music would sound as I was a big fan of Goldenthals Alien 3, The day after I bought the CD to Interview, and to this day almost 20 years later the CD often plays in my house and my favourite is of course "Born to Darkness" and "Louis revenge" ...A great movie and a great score by Maestro Goldenthal  
Dog Farm   My ignorance of film scores is surpassed only by my ignorance of . . . well, pretty much everything.smiley face Maybe Howlin' Wolf Records can help me learn a little something this October. Oddly, my baby Gunnar activated a jaunty audio loop on his Jumperoo at precisely the same moment that I clicked Play on the sample. What resulted would have made for a truly avant garde film score. I'll be back for Chill #2.  
Jonathan   Excited to have the Chills back.

Interview with the Vampire is Goldenthal's most significant score. Head's up for the Oscar nomination. I never thought about the absence of horror scores being nominated. 

David W.   Not a big Tom Cruise fan, but I did like the score. It helped set the tone, no pun intended.  
Jo   It's hard to believe such time has past since this movie's debut. The music tied into the theme perfectly. Happy 4th!  
Scott   So glad to have the 13 Chills back again this year!! Look forward to it every year now.

Interview with the Vampire is easily one of my favorite scores by Goldenthal. It is very much in his style with a somewhat gothic feel to it. I never realized that it was nominated for an Oscar, and to me it is very interesting that it WAS nominated. This is an excellent way to start the 4th edition of 13 Chills! Reading this made me dig it out and give it a listen...playing it now!  

Mike   Excellent choice to open 13 Chills. It wouldn't be Halloween without an Elliot Goldenthal horror score. As you mention, Goldenthal has worked his magic on any number of genre films, but it seems his musical voice is exceptionally well-suited for the realm of gothic horror. Interview with the Vampire may not be my favorite of his, but the score undeniably bears his usual creativity and gusto. 
David P.   Reminds me of another sinister type of waltz music from Eyes Wide Shut.