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Rock Stars Celebrate ‘End of the World’

When we first heard the roll call, we thought for sure someone had already booked the talent for next year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dinner. Where else could you find U2, Talking Heads, R.E.M., Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello, Neneh Cherry, Depeche Mode, Patti Smith, k.d. lang and Jane Siberry and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds all on the same package?

That’s the superstar congregation you’ll hear in Wim Wenders’ upcoming film, “Until the End of the World,” due this November from Warner Bros. With a few possible exceptions, the same lineup will be on the soundtrack album, tentatively scheduled for release in late October.

So how did Wenders, best known as director of such films as “Wings of Desire” and “Paris, Texas,” attract such an all-star cast?

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“Frankly, a lot of the songs came about simply because Wim was already good friends with a lot of the artists,” explains Sharon Boyle, the film’s music supervisor. “R.E.M. and Wim are old friends, as are David Byrne and Wim . . . and Bono . . . and Peter Gabriel and. . . .”

As it turns out, the soundtrack project hinged on a lot more than Wenders’ personal relationships. Many artists he hadn’t met agreed to contribute songs, either because they appreciated his films or because they were impressed by his obvious enthusiasm for pop music.

Eager to have Depeche Mode involved, Wenders followed the group around Europe, finally catching a concert somewhere in Germany. He enjoyed the show, but never met the band--with all the pandemonium, he couldn’t get backstage to see them.

Impressed by such gestures, a host of gifted artists not only committed to the project but willingly crafted their songs to fit Wenders’ film. Many artists, including Smith, Cherry and Cave, recorded several optional mixes. Depeche Mode cut five different versions of their song, “Death’s Door,” including separate acoustic and electric renditions.

“Wim has really involved the music in the film--it’s not an afterthought,” says Boyle, who did the music for such soundtracks as “Something Wild,” “The Hot Spot” and “The Silence of the Lambs.” “Most of the songs are used more than once in the film, often once with vocals and once as instrumentals. They fit so closely with the mood of each scene that it’s as if the songs are miniature theme music for each part of the picture.”

Many of the songs, which include the U2 title track, R.E.M.'s “Fretless” and Cherry’s “Move With Me,” are originals (the lone cover song is Costello’s remake of the Kinks’ “Days”). Most were submitted, in rough-mix form, to Wenders, who would suggest changes or steer the song in a direction more appropriate for the movie.

Better still, many artists worked for what Boyle termed “considerably less” than their customary pay scale. At normal rates, a superstar-studded soundtrack could have easily cost more than $1 million--but “World” came in at slightly under $500,000.

The biggest headache, as always, has been scheduling. Pop stars will contribute a new song to a soundtrack, but only as long as it comes out after their own album is released. Because of such contractual stipulations, Wenders lost several key artists, most notably Peter Gabriel and Robbie Robertson, whose albums have been delayed until next year. (Wenders can still use their songs in the film, just not on the album.)

Right now, the filmmakers’ biggest concern involves the U2 title track, which can only be used if the soundtrack is released after U2’s album is released. U2 now says its the album will be out Oct. 8, but Boyle has her fingers crossed.

“I keep saying, ‘Come on, U2! Let’s go!’ ” she says with a laugh. “It’s really going to make our life easier if it comes out on time.”


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