I’m a quarter Sicilian, so I figure this is my heritage, and the other thing is that I’m a great fan of Nino Rota. 8 1/2 is one of my all-time favorite films that I watch once every year just to see how far I’ve come: to see how my point of view on what this movie is about has changed. I’ve always been a fan of how the great European film composers can capture the essence of a film with a theme, with a statement of an idea. There are two main themes that I love in 8 1/2 and most of the Rota films do that. Just like the early Morricone stuff – these westerns were brilliant! The Good, The Bad and The Ugly- you just have to hear that ocarina once, and you know exactly what it is – instant recall! You can smell the dust coming off the horse’s hooves, and the way Eastwood looks, and all of it – that’s brilliant!
I think the American film composers have a slightly different approach, because a lot of us came up through animation or television, and we get locked into the clicks and cueing system. Somehow it becomes more about how well the music hits the cuts as opposed to how well the music fits the idea behind the film. I’ve always tried to approach movies with a European sensibility, and I think really did that with Mickey Blue Eyes – that’s what Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley wanted. They didn’t want me to hit the cuts. They wanted to provide pacing – to keep it in that same world that a lot of the source music was in. The thing that was most heartening about working in that genre was that it had been a long time since I had worked on a comedy. I found it interesting because it happened to be the sort of project I was looking for – it wasn’t an action score.
But the most rewarding part of Mickey Blue Eyes was that even with all those great songs, there were parts in the movie that had to be scored. As a film composer, that was the part where you say, “that validates my existence!” Not everything can be steamrollered with a song anymore, and in a particular comedic situation, which usually has drama attached to it, they need music specifically written for it. And that was cool!