Academy Award-winning composer Ludwig Göransson is the craftsman behind the original scores for films like Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and the hit series The Mandalorian. A long-time collaborator with writer and director Ryan Coogler, the breathtaking score for 2018’s Black Panther is what earned Göransson his Oscar, and the opportunity to return again to the world of Wakanda in the sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. While the first film’s score evoked a sense of triumph and pride that set the tone for Marvel Studios’ introduction to Wakanda, the sequel finds us in a new state of mourning for their nation’s leader, and all-new battles.
Sitting down with Collider’s Steve Weintraub, Göransson discussed his process of mixing a score beginning “on the script level,” how long into that process he’s tweaking the final mix, and the challenge of creating a score without the first film’s star Chadwick Boseman. He also shares what it’s like working with directors like Coogler and Nolan, and creating an immersive experience for audiences. You can read the full interview below, or watch the video above. For more on Wakanda Forever, check out Collider’s review by Ross Bonaime.
COLLIDER: I want to start with how much I enjoy your work, and I appreciate all the long hours you must put in to create your music, so I just want to say thanks.
LUDWIG GÖRANSSON: Thank you.
I’m so curious, how do you know when something is actually done? What goes through your head? Is there a feeling you’re like, “Oh, this is it”? Or are you constantly tweaking?
GÖRANSSON: I would say constantly tweaking to the very, very, very, very, very, very, very end. And in this one, I was literally listening to the final mixes of the score yesterday. So yeah, and that’s also what’s so special. I’m very lucky to have these collaborations that I have with the incredible directors and artists. Ryan and I have been working together for almost 13, 14 years now. Which means that he gets me involved very early in the process on the script level. He sends me the first version of the script. So, that means I have a lot more time. I can start experimenting at a very early stage and send him ideas while he’s shooting. He sends me ideas while he’s shooting. So, we’re constantly having this creative conversation with each other, for years before the movie comes out.
How much are you able to look at the dailies and everything as it’s going? Do you know what I mean? Or are you waiting to see what it’s all going to look like at the end?
GÖRANSSON: No, I’m starting on the script level. As soon as I read a script, I set off to try to start envisioning what the music sounds like.
No, totally. What I’m saying is, are you also looking at dailies as they’re shooting, to sort of alter? Or is it sort of like you’re composing with the script and then you’re waiting to see what the cut’s going to be?
GÖRANSSON: Yeah, I’m waiting. Unless there’s specific things that I need to hit, like if there’s an onscreen musical performance or something, I can see dailies. But otherwise, I prefer to just kind of write on the script and wait until they have a cut.
I’ve spoken to some people that really like to be laser-focused on one project at a time, and not sort of clutter their brain with a ton of things. How are you? Are you able to do four projects at the same time? Or when you were working on Black Panther 2, was it just Black Panther?
GÖRANSSON: Yes. I’ve done a lot of that, I think, in my career, and before. Earlier on in my career, I was working on more things at the same time. I was doing songs, doing TV shows, doing movies. And I think at that time, my brain maybe worked a little bit different, and maybe also had different priorities. But the last couple of the projects I’ve done, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to understand the way I really love to work, which is to do one project at a time and just be laser-focused on that and go 200%, and spend all my brain power, and my emotional, and my creativity on that.
So, did you officially finish Black Panther 2 yesterday?
GÖRANSSON: No, I finished it a couple weeks ago. But just the soundtrack and the score CD, I had to listen to some mixes.
This movie, the sequel, means a lot to a lot of people. And everything with Chadwick [Boseman], there’s just a lot of emotions with this movie. And I’m curious if you applied more pressure on yourself making this, because of how much this movie means to so many people?
GÖRANSSON: Absolutely. I felt it was a challenge after the passing of Chadwick. Just imagining what the music would sound like without him because there were so many musical moments, and instruments, and sounds, and themes that were tied to his character in the first movie. So, are we going to be able to reuse those themes? Are we going to be able to use the talking drum, which is constantly played throughout the whole first movie? As soon as you hear that sound, you immediately think of T’Challa. So, just had to be very thoughtful about it. Because it means so much to so many people, and it has such an emotional weight to it. So, that was something that I would meticulously spend time on and thought about, in ways where it would feel the best.
By the way, I haven’t said it yet, but I think the sequel’s fantastic. Obviously, your music is great, it’s going to be this huge hit, but while I have you, I’m also what we call a Star Wars fan—just throwing that out there. I have to know, you don’t work on Andor, but are you watching it?
GÖRANSSON: I haven’t seen it yet, no.
Oh, I’m going to recommend you watching.
GÖRANSSON: Yeah, I’m really excited about it. I’m super excited about it.
Strong recommendation. This Tony Gilroy guy seems to be pretty good. But jumping into why I have to know, obviously The Mandalorian Season 3 comes out early next year at some point. Where are you in the recording process? Have you started? Are you working on it?
GÖRANSSON: We’ll have to keep that a secret. Sorry.
Then I’ll ask you this: I loved your work in Tenant, and getting to work with [Christopher] Nolan, what did it mean to you to get to collaborate with him? Because he’s such a gifted filmmaker, just like Ryan [Coogler], just a very special filmmaker. Can you talk about that collaboration?
GÖRANSSON: I mean, yeah. I feel very, very fortunate to be able to work with both Ryan Coolger and Chris Nolan. These directors that are so completely devoted to the arts. It doesn’t really feel like we’re making product. It feels like we’re all trying to make something timeless and we’re trying to create something. Art. And obviously, the way that Chris thinks about music, and also both with Ryan and Chris, they have such an ear and an interest for music. You can tell in their filmmaking. I’ve been a fan of Chris’s movies since I was very young. And the importance that he lets the score has in his movies, the weight of the score, and how connected it is to the storytelling. It’s all about creating that immersive experience.
I remember seeing Batman Begins for the first time in the theater and just sitting there, completely encapsulated by the music, and by the movie, and how they worked so well together. Also everything that we’re trying to do, and that we did with Tenant, we’re trying, and I’m trying to do again, it’s creating something that feels just also completely timeless.
I’m kind of excited about this thing called Oppenheimer. I believe you might be collaborating. I’m just going to say, pleasure to talk with you. Thank you so much for your work. And I am looking forward to The Mandalorian Season 3.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits theaters November 11. Check out Collider’s interview with the movie’s cast members Alex Livinalli and Mabel Cadena below:
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