'The Hobbit' Countdown: Howard Shore is as Essential as Any Cast Member

'The Hobbit' Countdown: Howard Shore is as Essential as Any Cast Member

Sep 28, 2011

Larry D. Curtis, as part of the team at TheOneRing.net, has been comprehensively covering the works and adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien for more than a decade, making the not-for-profit site the leading source about The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings for fans and film makers world wide. Curtis represents the site at conventions and events around the US including New York Comic Con in October. You can read his The Hobbit Countdown here at Movies.com every other week.

Who is the most important talent returning to The Hobbit after working on The Lord of the Rings trilogy?  It might not be who you think of at first blush.

Fans were ecstatic to have Peter Jackson return to direct The Hobbit, although many other directors were given a look by Jackson himself when he assumed he would play the role of producer.

Ian McKellen left an indelible impression as Gandalf and the announcement of his return to the more humorous movie prequels was celebrated, as was Andy Serkis’ return as Gollum.  But just as essential to the success of the two films -- being shot in New Zealand as you read these words -- is the return of Howard Shore, who just spoke to TheOneRing.net from London about the forthcoming film screening of The Fellowship with a live musical score on a west coast tour while work on scoring The Hobbit is underway.

“We are really getting right into the middle of it now. We will have a lot more to talk about a little further on.”

Shore, who has been reportedly thinking about music for the new films for years, is something of a film-score legend and was even before being drafted to Jackson’s interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s LOTR films.  He has a long and distinctive collaboration with David Cronenberg, scoring nearly all of the director’s films with over 80 total film scores to his credit.  And if he never worked again after capturing a BAFTA nomination for his score on Silence of the Lambs, he would always be remembered for that remarkable film. (Watch it again and focus on the music; he served the story admirably.)  In fact, with that film, he is the only living composer to win an Oscar for a film that also won Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress, the top five Oscar categories.

A decade ago, before Fellowship of the Ring hit theaters, when the marketing department wasn’t sure if New Line’s big gamble to make three films would pay off, Shore’s melodies were hitting the television screens of the U.S., airing on Burger King commercials with the Fellowship money-shot of the impossibly diminutive Hobbits in “correct” scale to a Dwarf, an Elf, a pony a wizard and two men. Shore’s career was forever changed by just the Fellowship theme heard in that commercial that he morphed and stretched to great results for each of the three movies. But the trilogy as a whole, including the power and beauty of Shore’s score that really was one musical work spread across three films, made the composer a cinematic and musical master.  The theme alone evokes an emotional reaction from audiences a decade later.

More unforgettable themes followed in the cinema, including musical tone setters for The One Ring and Gollum.  As the composer who created the fabric of Middle-earth on screen, his return means every bit as much to the connection between the sets of films as any actor, technician, writer and even Jackson. From a publicity standpoint, there was no other commercial choice. But from a creative standpoint, any other composer would simply be standing in Shore’s shadow trying to enter Shore’s headspace as he worked on the two forthcoming films scheduled for December 2012 and December 2013.

In a lengthy conversation with Classic FM in the U.K., Shore opened up a little more about The Hobbit and his involvement.

“It was more that you couldn’t not do it. You just want to be able to be involved in. It is such a fantastic project. You feel like a Hobbit. You want to be on the adventure. The main focus now is Tolkien’s world and Peter’s imagery.”

One powerful bit of evidence that the score is a match for the longevity of the films is that in the soon-to-kick-off nine-city tour of The Lord of the Rings in concert. Celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the first film, the tour will start in Glendale, Arizona October 12 and then stop in San Diego, Las Vegas, Anaheim, Portland, Seattle, Fresno, Oakland and Sacramento.

Shore is busy composing other things but Maestro Ludwig Wicki, the preeminent conductor of Shore’s LOTR music, will handle the baton. The musicians, more than 230 of them, are touring for the show and includes the Munich Symphony Orchestra, Pacific Chorale and Phoenix Boys Choir

“It’s a very new experience really when you see the film, hearing the music live,” Shore said. “You hear the film in a really new way.  You see the music. It is a very heightened type of feeling to it.”

The projection screen is 60 feet high, using an uncompressed high definition source with two 20k lumen projectors.

“The vibration of the orchestra and the choir in the theater, the colors of the film take on a different glow. The story becomes heightened. It is a very interesting type of experience, it is really quite new,” he said.

Shore is quick to not only credit Jackson for his work on the film but puts himself in Tolkien’s world through the author’s own words. He reads Tolkien frequently and responds to its themes and credits the works as the foundation of his own efforts.

Wicki also just released The Lord of the Rings Symphony: Six Movements for Orchestra & Chorus, performed by the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra.

Short Takes from The One Ring

  Waikato Times reports that the outdoor set for the Shire is soon to get to business with host of extras scheduled but everybody involved is sworn to secrecy.

Ian Brodie, media and communications manager for Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm Tours, said confidentiality contracts meant anyone involved in The Hobbit in any capacity was bound to silence. "I don't know of any locals who are actually cast because they've all had to sign non-disclosures as well. Well, I know of one, but they would not be allowed to speak to you.

HUNDREDS ANSWER EXTRA’S CALL: Meanwhile in Omaru, extras were signing up and trying out for intermittent, last-minute work and long days for a shot at being a Hobbit extra.

TOLKIENITES TAKE MANHATTAN: The New York Comic Con has invited TORn to present Hobbit Headlines from TheOneRing.net at this year’s NYC event on Saturday, October 15 at 8:45 p.m..  We are also throwing a party (tickets on sale now) on Friday night and will have a booth during the whole show at 2813. Come say hello!


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