Director Peter Weir and Jim Carrey on the set of “The Truman Show” | Photo by Paramount Pictures
Hit play below to listen to our extended Music for Moving Pictures interview featuring director Peter Weir discussing the role of music in film, the 20th anniversary of The Truman Show, and more.
No film score exists without a director, and every director has their own take on how to use music, and what the purpose of music in film is. Peter Weir didn’t even hire a composer for his breakout film, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and he only licensed existing music on his follow-up, Gallipoli.
But soon after that, he started a beautiful artistic marriage with French composer Maurice Jarre, who provided moody, heavily electronic scores for a string of films, from The Year of Living Dangerously, to the film that cast Harrison Ford as a cop who goes undercover in Amish country: Witness.
Next, a film where Harrison Ford goes off the grid—and a little nuts: the vastly underrated The Mosquito Coast. Then one of the most inspiring movies ever, the one where a very serious Robin Williams told schoolboys to seize the day: Dead Poets Society.
Weir hired an up-and-coming Hans Zimmer for his next film, Green Card, a romantic comedy about a Frenchman and an American woman who marry out of convenience—and only fall in love after they get divorced. Then, Weir went back to Jarre for Fearless, a movie about the survivor of an airplane crash who suddenly has… no fear.
But even when he hired a composer, Weir continued to license existing music tracks all along the way, and he used some of those tracks—from Vangelis to Gorecki (as in the Fearless clip above)—for critical moments.
…which brings us to The Truman Show—my very personal, very selfish reason for having Weir on the podcast. This is the 20th anniversary of that masterpiece of a movie, which starred Jim Carrey as a man who was cast, as a baby, in the original reality show—where everyone around him is an actor and everything is a lie… and he has absolutely no clue. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time, and even though I’m usually one who complains when a director tracks their movie with existing music rather than hiring a composer to write custom-tailored score, The Truman Show soundtrack is a perfectly-calibrated, masterfully used collage of old and new Philip Glass music (Glass actually has a cameo in the film), a gorgeous Chopin concerto, a heartbreaking piece by the Polish composer Wojciech Kilar, and some original score by Australian composer Burkhard Dallwitz.
Philip Glass accompanies Christof (Ed Harris) as he watches Truman (Jim Carrey) sleep | Photo by Paramount Pictures
I used the anniversary as an excuse to call up Weir in Australia. We talked about the power of the 20-year-old film, my own personal history with it, Weir’s unique philosophy about music in films… and so much more.