Following a DGA screening of Bridge of Spies in New York on October 7, Steven Spielberg had a conversation about the making of the film with Director Martin Scorsese, where he commented on the reasons why Williams was replaced with Thomas Newman for writing the film’s score. Below is a transcript of the relevant part:
“Well, the music was by Thomas Newman, who has done a number of films for DreamWorks. He did American Beauty and Road to Perdition, a film that we made called How To Make An American Quilt, and he’s done a couple of scores for us… one especially, American Beauty, was a wonderful score. But John Williams, uh, you know, who is… John and I have worked together on every single movie until now. And John was writing Star Wars, and the deal we had with J.J. was that when I needed John, he’d stop writing Star Wars and he’d do the score – ‘Cause I only wanted 35 minutes of music. And John knew I needed, you know, 35-40 minutes of music in the whole film. I always wanted the entire opening to be no music at all, just the sounds of New York. […] Music always elevates something, but I didn’t want any of this to be elevated at all, except for what we’ve all seen and experienced ourselves.
So John called me up, and it was the hardest phone call John ever had to make, and the hardest phone call I’ve ever had to hear. All I cared about was his health, but he had to have a – what do you call it – pacemaker put in. And the Doctor said – and his procedure went great, there was no complications, everything was fine – But the doctor said ‘you can’t write, you can’t conduct, you can’t do anything for seven weeks.’ So John called me and said “What am I gonna do, because I can’t do anything for seven weeks, and then I gotta get back and finish the Star Wars score”. So this is the… that’s the reason.
But I hired Thomas Newman because I always loved his music, and loved him as a person. But, John Williams is part of the Newman family! Alfred Newman, Tom Newman’s father, discovered John Williams, and John’s first job was – Alfred Newman, out of all the session pianists, Alfred Newman said “John I want you to play the piano on South Pacific with Mitzi Gaynor.” And so it was John’s first job, he was the session player on keyboard for South Pacific. And then Alfred started using him again and again, and then Alfred started getting him composing jobs. So John is a part of the Newman family, so it was like I didn’t go out of the family when I didn’t use John – I stayed in the family!”
The full interview (video) and pictures of the event can be found at DGA.org (the Williams/Newman part starts at 47:20)