Film composer goes for a Burton! ; Prolific composer Danny Elfman heads to Birmingham for a rare show. He tells ROZ LAWS how he's finally ready to conquer his stage fright
COMPOSER Danny Elfman has been nominated for an Oscar four times but has always gone home empty-handed.
Others might be downhearted, but he insists he is thrilled when he loses out - because it means he doesn't have to speak in public.
The man behind such TV and film music as The Simpsons and Batman reveals he is crippled by stage fright.
Yet he's about to put himself to the test by performing in public for the first time in 19 years.
He will be singing, which he says is slightly less nerveracking than talking.
Danny is coming to Britain to perform in just four venues, including Birmingham's NIA, in an evening called Danny Elfman's Music from the Films of Tim Burton.
It's a celebration of the collaboration which has brought him most success, working with director Tim on films such as Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Alice in Wonderland.
Danny has been nominated for Oscars for his scores for Big Fish and Milk and in 1998 he was up twice, for Original Dramatic Score for Good Will Hunting and Original Musical or Comedy Score for Men in Black.
Danny lost out then to Titanic and The Full Monty, but he claims he wasn't in the least bit disappointed not to go home with a golden statuette.
"I think I must be the only nominee who breathes a sigh of relief when their name isn't called," he confides.
"Not winning awards really doesn't bother me at all. I'm fine with the way things are, because not winning means I don't have to speak in public.
"I had great stage fright for 23 years, even when I was performing with my band Oingo Boingo, and I've never got over it. When I stopped performing, I felt no sense of regret at all. I was relieved not to have the anxiety any more.
"One of my greatest fears is still speaking in front of an audience, that's even worse than singing. I had to give away an award at an event recently and even though the audience was friendly, my voice was shaking.
"When they asked me to sing some of Jack Skellington's songs from The Nightmare Before Christmas, live for the first time in these concerts, I said 'Sure, why not?'. Now I'm thinking 'oh my god, what have I done?'.
"I am extremely nervous. I'm having heart palpitations. I just hope I'll be able to get a hold of the beast and tame it, although I'm sure my first few moments of singing will be terribly shaky."
Danny famously composed the music for The Simpsons and for Desperate Housewives, and wrote the scores for films including Spider- Man, Scrooged, Dick Tracy, Sommersby, Chicago, Wanted and Hellboy.
But he has worked most with Tim Burton, from their first project together, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure back in 1985. Danny had just written his first soundtrack for a short film made by his brother, which so impressed a director they knew that he introduced Danny to Tim, who was looking for someone to score his first film. The pair instantly clicked and went on to work together on the likes of Mars Attacks!, Planet of the Apes, Sleepy Hollow and Dark Shadows.
The forthcoming concerts will feature music from such Burton classics as Beetlejuice, Batman & Batman Returns, Edward Scissorhands, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland.
Danny will be accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra and a 45- strong choir, and visuals of Tim's original film sketches and story boards shown on a big screen.
The world premiere of the event at the Royal Albert Hall on Monday, which has already sold out, will be followed by dates in Leeds and Glasgow, ending with Birmingham on Thursday.
"My agent has been telling me for 20 years that I should do some concerts, so I thought it was finally time," says Danny.
"It was British venues which offered to make it happen, and I was happy to say thank you. I have a great affinity for Britain, it's where Tim lives and where I've recorded many of his scores. I'm nervously enthusiastic. It's hard to pick favourites, but I have fond memories of Edward Scissorhands because it was so effortless to work on."
Not that the working process is always straightforward.
"Tim makes the film and then I watch a rough cut. He usually doesn't say much about what he wants. Then, when there's music, he's very vocal.
The 1989 film Batman, directed by Burton and starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, reinvented the superhero for the big screen. But Danny had to fight to remain its composer.
"The studio and producer didn't want me," he remembers. "It was gut-wrenchingly hard. I had to really step up and convince people I could do it who were very sceptical. I was the quirky comedy guy and they didn't think I'd have the right tone for Batman.
"It was tough, having to prove myself, but adversity is good. It felt like my biggest triumph in the end." Danny is 60 but shows no sign of retiring or indeed slowing down. The last two years have been his busiest ever, as he composed the scores for the films Dark Shadows, Men in Black 3, Silver Linings Playbook, Frankenweenie, Hitchcock, Promised Land, Epic and Oz The Great and Powerful.
He has two daughters from his first marriage, including actress and writer Mali Elfman, and is now married to actress Bridget Fonda, with whom he has an eight-year-old son, Oliver.
As well as all his musical accomplishments, Danny also has a secret skill - he learned how to breathe fire as a street performer in Paris after he left school. But Birmingham audiences shouldn't expect him to show that off during his forthcoming concert.
"I don't miss that at all.
The hard part isn't the fire breathing, but the horrible taste of gasoline that you have in your mouth for the rest of the day. I can't imagine it's good for you!" ? Danny Elfman's Music from the Films of Tim Burton comes to Birmingham's NIA on October 10. For tickets, ring 0844 338 8000 or go to www.theticketfactory.co.uk.
"Not winning awards really doesn't bother me... because not winning means I don't have to speak in public DANNY ELFMAN
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.
Most Popular Stories
- Senate Dems Pull All-Nighter on Global Warming
- Why New Workers Can't Get Ahead
- myLINGO Translates Hollywood Films into Spanish
- Rand Paul Takes Pot Shot at Ted Cruz
- Obama Plugs ACA on Zach Galifianakis Show
- Toledo Jeep Plant Hiring Part-Timers
- OECD Forecasts Slowdown in Global Growth
- Dianne Feinstein Accuses CIA of Spying on Congress
- Miley Cyrus Performs in Undies After Costume Goes Missing
- Snowden Urges Silicon Valley to Resist Internet Spying