Hans Zimmer talks ‘Inception,’ Freaking Out, and Letting the River Take Him

I asked some of our readers for questions, and I really liked this one. When you’re at home, would you rather sit down with the Batman Begins score or the Muppet Treasure Island score?

Muppet Treasure Island. And I have to tell you something horrible. I find it really difficult to listen to my own scores for many reasons. Number one, the nightmares keep flooding back in, but number two is a much more pragmatic thing. I live in a 5.1 Surround Sound world when I record this stuff, but when I have to go listen to things in stereo I think that someone just robbed me, just made my world smaller.

You don’t have a booming personal system at home?

You know the expression, “The shoemaker’s children?”


I have a pathetic system at home because I have a fantastic studio. At one point I had a pair of great speakers at home, and I came home one night, and my wife was in the sitting room flicking the remote. She’s going, “These remotes! I can never get them to work. I can’t get a sound out of this thing!” It’s only then that I remembered I borrowed the speakers, took them to the studio, and never brought them back home. So it’s pathetic. It’s pathetic.

You’re walking around shoeless because you have a really good studio.

Exactly. My kids are going, “What’s thing ‘music?’ We never hear any at home.”

[Laughs] What CD or vinyl album is on your player right now?

Hang on, hang on, hang on. [He checks] I just got all the old Yellow Magic Orchestra albums which I couldn’t find and don’t exist on iTunes. What else am I listening to…Russian choirs. I love Russian choirs and I found some crazy CD from the Soviet Army Chorus. It’s all over the place.

I was going to say. What’s the connection between Japanese electropop and Soviet choral music?

None! None! I was listening to Charles Ives, to answer the question, and I was listening to Radiohead. I think that’s about it right now. It’s pretty eclectic around here.

How many projects would you say you turn down every month?

Quite a few. I can’t really tell you how many because I feel so guilty about it. I’m terrible at returning emails and phone calls. Most of it, I think they didn’t really mean to phone me. It must have been an accident. It’ll just go away. That sort of thing, you know.

And I love working with my friends. Right now I’m working with Jim Brooks on [Everything You’ve Got] and soon I’ll be working with Gore Verbinski [for Rango]. So it’s nice to work with people you’re comfortable with because you can push a little further than you did the time before.

Do you ever think that you’ll personally reach the heights that you ascribe to Moroder and Midnight Express?

I’m not that concerned with that. I think incrementally I get better at saying what I’m trying to say, but I haven’t gotten there yet. You asked if it ever felt like the 25 year old getting his first assignment, and in many ways I don’t think that ever changes. I think the moment it does, it’s game over. You stop trying. You stop learning and discovering new things.

If you had to put what you’re trying to say into words instead of a film score, what would that be?

[Laughs] This makes me laugh because I taught Chris a word, a German word, while we were making this movie. This was a very long post-production set and we have a word in German that translates very badly into English but I think every artist should have in front of them at all times. It means ‘to ruin things by improvement.’

So, just be aware of the moment of creation. Don’t polish it too much because it’ll get boring.

You can hear Zimmer’s score in front of Christopher Nolan’s images when Inception opens this Friday.

For more fun, we’re awarding 10,000 Reject Points (which you can redeem at any local sporting goods store for an awkward stare from the cashier) to the first person who correctly identifies the German word Zimmer mentions at the end of the interview:

A veteran of writing about movies for nearly a decade, Scott Beggs has been the Managing Editor of Film School Rejects since 2009. Despite speculation, he is not actually Walter Mathau's grandson. See? He can't even spell his name right.

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