The Conti Collaborations
Providence, RI, native Bill Conti reaches the landmark age of 75 today. The beloved composer has notched astounding achievements across his seven decades of music-making: the Rocky and The Karate Kid films and multiple collaborations with Paul Mazursky (Blume in Love, Harry and Tonto, Next Stop, Greenwich Village, An Unmarried Woman) as well as the memorable themes for TV favorites like Dynasty, Falcon Crest and the various iterations of North & South, an Academy Award® nominee for the James Bond song For Your Eyes Only, a winner for The Right Stuff, and a three-time Emmy® winner for conducting the Oscar® ceremonies. For evidence of his versatility, take his hyperactive activity log for 30 years ago: in 1987 he provided the score for a historical miniseries (Napoleon & Josephine), a sci-fi cut favorite (Masters of the Universe), a heist comedy (Happy New Year), an acclaimed workplace romantic comedy (Broadcast News) and two other feature films that have also left their mark. On the first, the brooding and soulful tale of an IRA operative who struggles to escape his murderous past based on a novel by Jack Higgins, he was not the original composer. British veteran John Scott (A Study in Terror, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes) initially wrote the music for director Mike Hodges’ screen adaptation of A Prayer for the Dying, but the producers overruled the filmmaker and sought to commission a replacement score that would amplify the film’s underlying theme of the quest for redemption more effectively. Conti got the call, and he delivered what’s been described as “one of his most beautiful and melodic scores…, incorporating Irish reminiscences, a wonderful love theme, and a good amount of suspense and action music” for the story of a closed soul at the crossroads of commitment and conscience, expertly played by Mickey Rourke, with Bob Hoskins, Alan Bates, Liam Neeson and Sami Davis equally gripping in support. A month later, moviegoers heard more upbeat synth-pop and jazz-tinged themes on the soundtrack of another great workplace comedy that, like Broadcast News (which would arrive just two months later!), has stood the test of time: Baby Boom, starring Diane Keaton as a high-powered executive who gets a high-powered injection of sudden parenthood at a most inconvenient time in her career. The film’s director Charles Shyer, in a recent Home Theater Forum interview with Neil Middlemiss, prized Conti’s Baby Boom work: “Well, I think what it is, is you cast the composer as you cast the actors. I mean, it's think it's what could they bring, and what do they add to what you already have? And with Bill, I had loved the score he did for An Unmarried Woman. He had done and obviously everybody knows Rocky. And he's a great guy, and was so collaborative. And [co-writer/producer] Nancy [Meyers] and I had seen a Stanley Kubrick [movie with] score that we loved, and it may be Lolita, I'm not sure. But it had a kind of the feel that we wanted, and we played that for Bill, and he came back with his version of that, his interpretation of it, which was far different, but still in essence had that feel that we wanted, which was kind of a marriage of this little creature and this working woman. It just had – I don't know, there was a sophisticated yet childish feel to what he did that we loved. And again, Bill is such a good guy….I've worked with great, great people, so Bill's up there though. He's fantastic and his work stands on its own. My daughter just directed a movie, and she was talking about Bill's score for An Unmarried Woman, how much she loved it, and she used it as a temp track for her movie [Home Again] that's coming out in the fall.” For an eminently fascinating and illuminating 2013 visit with the birthday honoree, check out his 168-minute conversation with film music historian Jon Burlingame at the Film Music Foundation website here: http://filmmusicfoundation.org/interviews. And to explore the musical expertise he brings to A Prayer for the Dying and Baby Boom, listen to the Isolated Tracks on their respective Twilight Time hi-def Blu-rays.