‘The Making of The Phantom Menace’ (1999)

By Laurent Bouzereau & Jody Duncan

Music is an important element in all movies, but especially in films of George Lucas. “When I write the script,” Lucas said, “I hear the film more in music than in terms of sound effects. I really hear it in my head. I give much attention to music even during the early stages of writing. The Star Wars films are essentially silent films because they are stories that are told visually, and in silent films the relationship between image and music is everything. Much of the story and are told a lot of emotion through music. It is one of most important elements of the film. ”
John Williams would compose the musical score for Episode I, as he had done to the original three Star Wars movies, Indiana Jones trilogy, Jaws, ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, Schindler’s List, and other fifty-nine movies. His scores for film composer did win five Academy Awards and some amazing thirty-six nominations for the Oscars, and they contain some of the most recognizable musical themes in movie history.
In the first week of February 1999, John Williams, George Lucas and Rick McCallum returned to England to write the film – but Williams was already at work for several months by then. “I saw a montage of the Episode I for the first time in early October 1998,” Williams said. “It was a little raw and all the special effects were not yet there, but all ages were there. I was anxious to begin as soon as he could. We had to record the song in February, so by then I had only four months to prepare a score that had a duration of two hours. ”
Williams came to the first viewing of the film with the music of the first trilogy in the head. “The music was already existing in my head,” Williams explained, “because they were thematic identifications with characters and ideas in history. The next step was to create a series of melodic motifs that were new for this movie and that coexist with old ones.” The way the existing themes and motifs were mixed with new ones, would be one of the biggest challenges and one of the most interesting of the new score. When composing the theme song for the character of Anakin, for example, Williams felt compelled to include a touch he had composed the theme for Darth Vader in the original trilogy. “Anakin’s theme definitely has a series of musical cues that people may recognize as the music of another person who we have met before.”
New musical themes include those for the characters of Jar-Jar and Qui-Gon. “The theme of Jar-Jar was funny, because that is their role in history. But the theme of Qui-Gon has to do with nobility, because he is a teacher, a teacher, a moral conscience for the young Jedi. Also There is a march for the army of the evil Trade Federation, which is nothing like Darth Vader music from previous films, although the same function. It creates the same kind of weight and has a great force behind it. ”
After seeing the film for the first time Williams has two days to review it with Luke at his side. “We call it a” Spotting Session “,” Williams said. “We saw the movie without the temp track and must decide where to begin and end the song. George explained what would be the dramatic function of music, scene by scene. A spotting session is the starting point for the director, the composer and the designer sound to begin to realize where they should be softer or not, where do we speed up or slow down. It is a general discussion about how music will work with the sound effects and dialogue. At the end of this session, I went away, and four months later, I came back with two hours of orchestral music to accompany the film. ”
Luke did not hear this music until the recording sessions in late January. “Some directors, Steven Spielberg, for example, like to appear as these ideas to compose and hear,” Williams said. “But George did not. On the one hand he was in San Francisco and I was in Los Angeles. Another reason was because a film like this, there is a huge task of musical design – and I write for myself every note, without a group of people with me. When you ask an architect to build a giant building – especially in just four months – it’s best you go away, leave him alone, let him do his job, and expect the building to stand when is finished. That’s what George did. ”
Williams began the score in the middle of the film, composing music for the scenes between Anakin and his mother. “I wanted to find the human aspect of the story before going to action sequences,” Williams said. “I also wanted to ground the music in the action scenes look more human and emotional theme.” Williams then moved to the end of the film. “It was important to know where I was walking, so that I could work on it.”
Williams, Lucas, McCallum, and the London Symphony Orchestra joined the Abbey Road Studios in London, where the recording sessions would take place over eight days. As with many veterans of the Star Wars films on the film, Episode I was a family reunion for John Williams. “Working on this movie was like writing for an old friend,” Williams said. “For me, it seemed to me like the experience I had twenty years ago, even though the characters were different. There was a family connection, a bond of family union for it all.”