"I thought 'Oh man! I wish I was in Ocean's 8'. And now I am": Daniel Pemberton on his "musical heist" for Ocean's 8
Daniel also talks about working with Iggy Pop and Aaron Sorkin and gives us a sneak peek into Danny Boyle's upcoming Beatles-centered untitled 2019 project.
'Ocean's 8', the brand new spin-off of Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's trilogy is all set to hit theaters this Friday (June 8). Boasting an all-female lead cast of Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, and Helena Bonham Carter, it's hyped to be a heist film with a fresh twist in tune with the themes and trends of the times.
The story focuses on Danny Ocean's estranged sister Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) and her attempt to gather a crew to attempt a nearly impossible heist at New York City's yearly Met Gala. Produced by Steven Soderbergh and directed by Gary Ross ('Big,' Seabiscuit,' 'Hunger Games') the first trailer for the film showed us a glimpse of the ladies getting down to business in typical Ocean's style, set to the swanky, empowering tune of Nancy Sinatra's 'These Boots Are Meant For Walkin''.
Meaww spoke to Daniel Pemberton, who helms the music and score for 'Ocean's 8'. Daniel was in New York to catch the premiere of the film when I had the chance to chat with him.
Right off the top, we discussed the female forward theme of the film which is pretty much the first thing that stands out when compared to the rest of the trilogy. The soundtrack of the film seems to echo the same. The first trailer had Nancy Sinatra. The second trailer is set to the apt groove of Linda Ronstadt's 'You're No Good'. There've been rumors of Rihanna featuring on the soundtrack too. I asked Daniel if it was a conscious choice on his part to include so many female artists in the licensed tracks of the OST and while he did admit that it had more to do with the music supervisors of the film, he did play a small role in picking few of them out.
"It definitely was a conscious choice, keeping the tone of the film in mind, and something that differentiates it from the other three as well," Daniel said. I asked him how much he was involved with the selection of the tracks. "Everyone in this film kind of threw their opinions in on stuff, but I'd say that was more of the director and the music supervisors of the film," Daniel admitted.
The music and the score have always been essential to the Ocean's trilogy. The trilogy has always featured music that complemented the narrative beautifully, driving the tense heist sequences and keeping an edge-of-the seat up-tempo groove from start to finish. We all remember tightly choreographed laser-dodging Capoeira sequence by the crafty Vincent Cassel from Ocean's 12 set to the electronic flourish of La Caution's 'Thé à la Menthe'.
While the score for the original trilogy came from veteran Northern Irish composer David Holmes, the upcoming spinoff features a new director (as Soderbergh settles for production credits) and a new music director as well in the form of Daniel, who says that he immediately jumped onto the offer to work on the project.
"They really liked work I'd done on 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E' and it's really weird because I've always been a massive fan of the previous Ocean's films and that kind of film-making which is very bold and uses music in a very strong way rather than just in the background. I'd just seen 'Logan Lucky,' the Soderbergh film that came out recently, and I thought 'Oh man! I wish I was in Ocean's 8.' And now I am!"
Daniel admitted that he hadn't had the chance to speak with Holmes before going into the project. "I'm a big fan of David's work. What he did on the earlier films is simply great. We did use some of the same musicians - people like Leo Abrahams," Daniel said. When I asked him if there was any pressure to fill in Holmes' shoes, Daniel quipped, "Well there was, for me because he's made great scores. If I don't make a good score, I'll look like an idiot!"
Unlike most of us, Daniel has already seen the finished film several times, even before the premiere that he was due to attend on Tuesday. "Oh yeah, I've seen the film like a million times in a million different kind of settings," Daniel said. "What can we expect from the soundtrack?" I asked him.
"The music in Ocean's films always plays a very big part. The films are very stylish and the music has to have a sense of style and its own identity and not be reduced to background music. So it's definitely got a quirkier feel when compared to the previous films. Again, it's very groove driven, with very strong rhythms and quite upfront melodies. And I'm sort of pulling on so many genres - like psychedelic rock from the 60's, to 50's Bossa nova, some jazz, hip-hop. So I'm trying to pull it all together and make it musically exciting."
"Musically, the film has its tongue in its cheek. I'd call it a musical heist. I've taken bits from all the genres."
"Any particular sequence in the film you really enjoyed scoring?" I asked Daniel. "The very end of the film was kind of interesting," he said. "I had to write it very, very quickly. We had to rewrite the ending cue when it sort of revealed the heist. We had to do the whole thing pretty much on the fly in the studio and that can be very nerve-racking, but it was fun."
Apart from Ocean's 8, we also spoke about Daniel's other projects. 2017 was a great year for Daniel. After his score for 'Steve Jobs' was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score in 2016, the following year bagged Daniel another Golden Globe nomination, this time for Best Song for the song 'Gold' from the film of the same name which he co-wrote with Iggy Pop, Danger Mouse and the director Stephen Gaghan.
"He's a really nice guy," Daniel said of the legendary Iggy Pop. "He's into all sorts of different music and very open to trying new things, and also Brian [Joseph Burton] aka Dangermouse. They were great people to work with."
"Did you do a fair bit of the songwriting as well?" I asked Daniel.
"Well, the director of the film (Gold) Stephen Gagha... he re-wrote the lyrics and we wrote the song together when we were in London. And then we got Brian and all the stuff with Iggy and it got done very quickly. It was very exciting how it all came together."
Daniel also had the privilege of being Aaron Sorkin's music director of choice when it came to his very first directorial effort, 2017's critically acclaimed thriller 'Molly's Game'. "I'd sort of met Aaron first while working on the Danny Boyle film 'Steve Jobs'. But working with him on Molly's Game was fantastic. As you said, it was his first film, but it felt like he'd been making films forever... like it felt like his 20th film or something. The first time directing can be quite tricky but..." Daniel paused.
"But this is Aaron Sorkin after all!" I offered.
"Yeah. He's been in the business for so long that he knows how to get the best out of people. And he was a very warm collaborator. He's very supportive and very enthusiastic."
"Any upcoming projects this year for you," I asked Daniel, wrapping the conversation up. "I just finished Ocean's. I'm doing some work on Danny Boyle's upcoming film at the moment." I was curious.
"Which one is that?" I asked, wondering if it could be the upcoming Bond film, only to realize that it's still in pre-production. "It doesn't have a title," Daniel said.
"What about a working title?" I asked, trying to see if I could get more.
"It's literally called 'Untitled Danny Boyle Project'," Daniel said as we shared a laugh. "It's about a singer who wakes up in a world where The Beatles never existed, and he knows all the Beatles songs. It's interesting. This person knows the songs of the greatest band in the world and they never existed in this world," he divulged.
'Ocean's 8' premieres on June 8 globally. Catch it at a theater near you to check out Daniel's groove-driven score as Debbie Ocean and the rest of the gang pull off the heist of the decade!