Danny Elfman and his film scores taking center stage at Nokia Theatre
The role: Dr. Ryan Stone, the beginner astronaut suddenly stuck in space when her space shuttle is damaged, and her thirst for life deepened.
The final pick: Sandra Bullock. Jolie was set to star alongside Robert Downey Jr. But Jolie’s management team wasn’t able to come to an agreement with Warner Bros.
The movie: “The Matrix” series
The role: Neo, a superhuman with the power to perform every single martial art and fighting style.
The final pick: Keanu Reeves. Smith passed on the role because he couldn’t envision the concept of “The Matrix.” Looking back, Smith said he wouldn’t have been “smart” enough to play the role at the time. He later starred in the sci-fi action film “I, Robot.”(Melinda Sue Gordon / Warner Bros.; Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images for MTV)
The role: Bella Swan, a teenager turned vampire with the skill to shield herself and others from mental harm. All the while, she’s madly in love with mind-reading vampire Edward Cullen.
The final pick: Kristen Stewart. Lawrence later landed the role of Katniss Everdeen in the equally popular series “The Hunger Games.”(Samir Hussein / Getty Images; Kimberley French)
The movie: “Michael Clayton”
The role: Michael Clayton, an attorney with a conscience, who breaks down the corruption surrounding a chemical scandal.
The final pick: George Clooney. To this day, Washington regrets turning down the role. “With ‘Clayton,’ it was the best material I had read in a long time, but I was nervous about a first-time director, and I was wrong,” Washington said.(Chris Pizzello / Invision / Associated Press; Myles Aronowitz)
The role: Forrest Gump, a not-so intelligent former military man set to tell the story of his life.
The final pick: Tom Hanks. Travolta simply turned down the role and later admitted his decision was a mistake. For Hanks, the role earned him an Oscar for best actor in 1994.(Francois Durand / Getty Images )
The role: Cher Horowitz, the wealthy Valley girl up for anything that involves fashion, makeovers and, like, boys.
The final pick: Alicia Silverstone. Gellar couldn’t commit due to scheduling conflicts.(Jordan Strauss / Invision / Associated Press; Paramount Pictures)
The role: Will Turner, an ace swordsman and budding pirate.
The final pick: Orlando Bloom. Law auditioned for the role to play Keira Knightley’s love interest, but was shoved aside for Bloom.(Jonathan Leibson / Getty Images; Peter Mountain / Disney Enterprises )
The role: Black Widow, a femme fatale formerly known as a Russian spy.
The final pick: Scarlett Johansson. Blunt passed on the role saying: “Usually the female parts in a superhero film feel thankless: She’s the pill girlfriend while the guys are whizzing around saving the world.”(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times; Zade Rosenthal / Marvel)
The role: Gandalf, a wizard and leader of the Fellowship of the Ring with great mental and physical power.
The final pick: Ian McKellen. Despite director Peter Jackson’s many attempts for Connery to play Gandalf -- he offered Connery $30 million on top of 15% of the film’s box office revenue -- Connery said he simply didn’t understand the story. During his audition read, Connery mistakenly referred to hobbits as bobbits.(Jason Szenes / EPA; New Line Productions)
The role: Vivian Ward, an assertive Hollywood Boulevard prostitute who finds love with a wealthy lawyer.
The final pick: Julia Roberts. Hannah rejected the role since she believed it was belittling to women. “They sold it as a romantic fairytale when in fact it’s a story about a prostitute who becomes a lady by being kept by a rich and powerful man,” Hannah said. Hannah, however, later portrayed a stripper in the drama “Dancing at the Blue Iguana.”(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times; Buena Vista / Getty Images)
The role: Spider-Man, the web-slinging, wall-crawling figure who has proved to be one of the most commercially successful superheroes.
The final pick: Tobey Maguire. A disappointed Prinze Jr. told late-night radio personality Howard Stern that he was originally cast as Spider-Man, but director Sam Raimi went with Maguire instead.(Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times; Merrick Morton / Columbia Pictures)
The role: Han Solo, a sarcastic yet compassionate hero who helps for the common good.
The final pick: Harrison Ford. Al Pacino dismissed the role, saying: “It was mine for the taking but I didn’t understand the script.” Pacino turned down the “Star Wars” series and later starred in the Godfather trilogy, but found it to be “a long, awful, tiring story.”(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times; Industrial Light & Magic)
The role: J.D., the money-stealing, good-looking thief who strikes up a romantic relationship with Thelma (Geena Davis), and ends up educating her on his holdup tactics.
The final pick: Brad Pitt. Clooney read with Davis several times, only to be booted for Pitt. Clooney admitted he didn’t see the movie for years, then decided to rent it one night and realized that Pitt was perfect for the role.(Brad Barket / Getty Images for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; MGM)
The role: Scarlett O’Hara, a smart and charming woman searching high and low for love.
The final pick: Vivien Leigh. Davis turned down the role under the impression that Errol Flynn would play the part of Rhett Butler. (Clark Gable actually got the role.) Davis had refused to work with Flynn earlier, as their relationship off-screen was rocky. Davis even reportedly once slapped Flynn on the face.(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles Times Archives)
The role: James Bond, a British secret agent, with the code name 007.
The final pick: Sean Connery. Grant was 58 years old at the time of the audition and turned down the role because he was only interested in doing one Bond film.(Van Ness Films Inc.; Los Angeles Times Archives)
Inside Studio Della Morte, the Los Angeles compound where Danny Elfman spends much of his professional life, antique dolls, skulls and leering puppets coexist with deranged fairy tale paintings by Mark Ryden and mesmerizing Diane Arbus photographs. The haute sideshow décor might be an effective visual representation of Elfman’s gleefully ghoulish sensibility, but it also serves as a catalog of the inspiration and influences that have helped shape his prodigious musical output.
What you won’t see, though, is a shrine to his own creative past.
“If it’s something I find in a flea market, I might preserve something very old with great care and love — but not my own work,” Elfman said. “It’s never occurred to me to try to preserve anything. Anything I’ve created seems to have no value to me.”
Yet Elfman, 60, the master craftsman of music-box lamentations and carnival-inspired revelries, has found himself in the strange position of reflecting on his legacy with a new orchestral performance that will celebrate one prominent aspect of his career.
For the first time in the U.S., Elfman will present a live program of the 15 movie scores he’s penned for longtime collaborator Tim Burton. Beginning a three-night run at the Nokia Theatre on Tuesday, “Danny Elfman’s Music From the Films of Tim Burton” will even see Elfman take the stage to sing selections from the soundtrack of the stop-motion animated fable “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
Conductor John Mauceri will lead the 87-piece Hollywood Symphony Orchestra through the three performances, which also will feature the 45-member Page L.A. Choir.
Since 1985’s “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” Elfman has composed the scores for every feature Burton has done but two (“Ed Wood” and the Sondheim adaptation, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”), in addition to working at a prolific clip on scores for projects from other A-list directors including Paul Haggis, Ang Lee, Gus Van Sant and Sam Raimi.
For Burton’s loyal fans, though, Elfman’s whimsical symphonic accompaniments have become a hallmark of the viewing experience. But the composer insists that, despite their close rapport, each venture arrives as a puzzle needing to be solved.
“I’m frequently asked, ‘Oh, you guys must have a great shorthand,’” Elfman said. “We don’t. It’s the same process as it ever was. It’s very often roundabout and circular. Some directors hear something and go, ‘That’s it!’ Tim’s not like that. He’s just not wired that way. I expect to have to work to get inside his head. His head is a complicated and fairly elaborate place. Occasionally it goes quicker and easier than that, but then I’m surprised.”
The idea for the concert performances grew out of a recent boxed set that celebrated Burton and Elfman’s 25-year partnership, a 2010 project that required the composer to pore over boxes of audio cassettes that for decades had been gathering dust in storage. The experience gave Elfman a better idea of what selections he might include in an orchestral concert, but he also knew the music would need to be tweaked in strategic ways.
“In recording, you can have a piece that’s driven by nothing but the piano and one melody instrument,” Elfman said. “In a live concert … one player playing with an electric piano is not going to feel very powerful. You really have to adjust things and figure out how will this play.”
Collaborating with his orchestrator Steve Bartek, Elfman worked intensively over three months to determine the order in which the music should be presented. Then he wrote musical transitions to ensure the pieces from the 15 films would flow seamlessly during the performance.
He also created new passages to bolster some compositions — the up-tempo Gypsy number “Edward the Barber” from “Edward Scissorhands,” for one, was extended for the performance. But Elfman wasn’t necessarily interested in updating the music, especially the older material, to sound more contemporary.
“I tried not to take an approach of modernizing everything to be as I would do now. That would take away some of the charm of some of the earlier stuff, and I didn’t want to do that.”
Although he remains one of Hollywood’s most sought-after composers, Elfman has continued to write orchestral music for the stage, including Cirque du Soleil’s “Iris,” which closed at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood in January. He’s collaborated with Mauceri on “The Overeager Overture,” which was performed at the Hollywood Bowl in 2006, and on “Serenada Schizophrana,” a 2004 classical piece that premiered at Carnegie Hall and was recorded and released two years later.
“Serenada Schizophrana” is enjoying a robust afterlife — four selections from it will be featured in the first act of a dance program at Orange County’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts, “Diana Vishneva: On the Edge,” choreographed by Jean-Christophe Maillot and set to open Nov. 6. The program also features two pieces from Elfman’s “Rummy (Not Edited),” taken from the score of Errol Morris’ documentary “The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld.”
While “Danny Elfman’s Music From the Films of Tim Burton” marries Elfman’s movie work with his history of symphonic performance, it also connects with his musical past in another way. When the concert premiered Oct. 7 at London’s Royal Albert Hall with the BBC Concert Orchestra, the first stop on a short British tour, the former Oingo Boingo frontman sang live for the first time in 18 years.
Burton’s partner, Helena Bonham Carter, joined Elfman on stage in London, where she and the filmmaker reside, to sing “Sally’s Song” from “Nightmare Before Christmas.” The actress isn’t expected to turn up for the three Los Angeles performances, but Burton’s visuals will be represented with movie clips and other imagery projected during the concert.
“Walking out on stage at Albert Hall, I think it was the most terrifying moment I can remember in my life,” Elfman said Monday, speaking by phone during a break in rehearsals for Tuesday’s show. “I really did feel like Alice with her little sword going out to meet the Jabberwocky. Once I got past the first song, I started really enjoying it. I’m totally ready for L.A. now.”
“Danny Elfman’s Music From the Films of Tim Burton” has already booked dates in Seattle and in Vancouver, Canada, and the show will be performed in Detroit on Wednesday without the composer. More dates are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
Interest in the concerts certainly appears to be high — the Halloween event at the Nokia sold out in about 12 minutes, prompting the scheduling of the additional performances. Despite the seemingly bright prospects for the production, Elfman was somewhat reserved in his outlook. He employs cautious optimism as a good luck charm.
“I refuse to allow myself to think it will be anything more than OK,” the composer said. “That’s the approach I take about everything, my scores included. Maybe it’s an old-school Russian thing that I carry with me through two generations removed. Don’t tempt fate by bragging or ever feeling too good about anything you do.
“Any time anything comes out OK, I’m gratified.”
Where: Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live
When: 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
Info: (888) 929-7849 or www.nokiatheatrelalive.com
Where: Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live
When: 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
Info: (888) 929-7849 or https://www.nokiatheatrelalive.com
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