ROMAN J. ISRAEL. ESQ.
About The Music
For the sounds of the film, Gilroy had two collaborators. Denzel Washington
would help Gilroy choose specific songs that would provide the soundtrack to
Roman Israel's life, and James Newton Howard, who previously teamed with Gilroy
on Nightcrawler, would compose the film's score.
"Roman listens to music on headphones all the time to drown out the sound of the
world. His apartment has stacks and stacks of milk crates of records. Music is
incredibly important to him," says Gilroy.
"There are two types of music in this film," Gilroy continues. "One is source
music - music that Roman listens to or hears in the outside world, and the other
is score. Going into this project, I had no sense or commitment to any specific
music cue whatsoever. Denzel and I started talking about the character and the
music about three months before we started shooting, and it became clear that
Denzel is more than just a music lover. If I remember correctly, Denzel has
26,000 songs on his iPod, and it's an old iPod because the old ones have the
hard drives in them - those are the only ones that hold that much music. He's
extremely knowledgeable about music, so I wanted to get his input."
The first step was to choose a musical genre that would make sense for the soul
of the character. "Roman says about himself that he's a fighter who's never left
the front lines," Gilroy continues. "So, musically, his tastes go from the 60s
to the late 70s and they don't go past that."
Gilroy notes that there are a number of scenes in the film in which the music
that Washington was listening to as Gilroy shot the scene became the music in
the final film. "One specific instance is 'Cosmic Slop' by Funkadelic, after
Roman gets mugged," he recalls.
In other scenes, Gilroy wanted the music to provide a dramatic counterpoint to
Roman's emotions. "In the apartment, he puts on Al Green's 'I'm Still in Love
with You.' That's a love song, even though Roman doesn't have a relationship at
that point in the film - he has a relationship with idealism and activism,"
Gilroy explains. "That's a love song that's representative of his relationship
with the spirit of activism."
Two other classic songs fill out the soundtrack. "The Chambers Brothers' 'Time
Has Come Today' fit in really well with a sequence in which Roman leaves the
city - the timing worked perfectly," says Gilroy. "And after sitting with Denzel
and talking about the film, I felt very strongly that 'I'll Be Around' should
close the film."
There is one exception to the 60s and 70s soul classics, Gilroy notes: as Roman
enjoys a day at the beach - one that is a moment before his life will become
very stormy - the music cue is Childish Gambino's "Baby Boy." "I'm just an
enormous fan of Donald Glover, and I thought that song fit. It's really the only
time the outside world enters in a contemporary way and becomes part of our
score," he says. "The line is, 'Please don't take my baby boy away' - but it's
kind of upbeat. Even though Roman is enjoying a moment when life is good - he's
enjoying the moment, the clouds have parted and he's literally in the sun - it's
a bittersweet moment because what's gotten him there is going to come around and
take it away. That song has both of those qualities in it."
Eight-time Oscar nominee James Newton Howard would compose the film's original
score. Gilroy says that the goal was to make sure that the original music
matched and meshed with the song score that Gilroy and Washington were choosing.
"James is an incredible talent, a great composer with tremendous range. James'
score helps to carry the story, to help define the character, used in concert
with the source music. James was very cognizant of using instruments and
instrumentation that had relevance to the music that Roman was listening to - he
made a connection between the score and the songs. Working with James, we
listened to a lot of old R&B, picked out sections of songs and instrumentation -
the score has a Wurlitzer sound, a vibraphone, bongos - and built a musical
library from which he could work on the score. James was very much influenced
and a big fan of that time period."
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