Page last updated at 08:34 GMT, Thursday, 4 March 2010

Meet the composer who made you cry in Up

Michael Giacchino
Michael Giacchino was nominated against himself at the Grammys

By Tim Masters
Entertainment correspondent, BBC News

Michael Giacchino is no stranger to the Oscars.

Last year he was musical director of the awards show, and the year before he was nominated for his score for Ratatouille.

This year he's back again - nominated for his music for Disney-Pixar's animation Up.

Watch a clip from Up

It's Giacchino's rousing orchestral score that accompanies old Mr Fredricksen's house as it is carried skywards by a million balloons.

But the American composer is also a man who likes to make you cry.

In the first few minutes of Up there is a wordless sequence showing the lives of Carl and Ellie Fredericksen as they marry, set up their dream home and grow old.

Many adults watching were surprised to find they had tears plopping into their popcorn from behind their 3D glasses.

I got e-mails from the director of Up saying 'I'm glad you beat that guy who composed the music for Star Trek'
Michael Giacchino

Behind it all is Giacchino's nostalgic score.

"That is essentially a reflection of how I felt watching that scene," says Giacchino. "There are moments where it's beautiful and touching, and there are moments where you want to cry.

"We all eventually get old, we all end up in the same place. It's a reality check. You look at that and you start seeing where you are in your own life.

"It's one of those unique scenes. I remember thinking that if we didn't get it right, by the time you get to the end of the film - where dogs are flying airplanes - we would have lost the audience altogether."

Up still
Up was released on DVD just ahead of the Oscars

Giacchino, who was born in New Jersey, started making his own films at the age of nine.

"I grabbed my Dad's 8mm camera and started making stop motion movies," he recalls. "I made this animated film called Space Adventure 3000, about these two guys whose space shuttle goes off course and they land on this planet inhabited by aggressive robots and dinosaurs.

"I'd put music on a tape recorder and use a stopwatch to sync it up. And I realised that's how the guys did it in the early days of film-making."

He admits that the process isn't too different to how he works now on music for films like The Incredibles and JJ Abrams' Star Trek, and TV series Alias and Lost.

"I watch a film and I'll figure out what the tempo of the music should be. I'm just more in control now."

Plane percussion

Giacchino started out his musical career writing scores for computer games in the 90s.

It was these that brought him into contact with gaming fan JJ Abrams, who asked him if he wanted to score the TV show Alias.

Abrams' plane crash drama series Lost followed - with Giacchino given the opportunity to experiment sonically.

"I remember thinking we should create the most uncomfortable sound you can imagine," he recalls. "We wanted people crawling up the side of their sofa when they were watching this."

So he put together a small orchestra, and then used parts of the crashed plane from the beach in Hawaii in the percussion section.

"They were sending over boxes of these things," he laughs. "It was eerie in a way, really strange, but it worked."

The young Spock is played by Heroes' Zachary Quinto
The young Spock is played by Heroes' Zachary Quinto

One of Giacchino's biggest challenges was taking on the score for Abrams' Star Trek movie.

"It was the greatest call to ever get and the most terrifying call to ever get," he says.

"When I first started writing music for that film nothing sounded right. What I was doing was writing music based on my perception of Star Trek the brand...

"Someone said to me - forget the idea that we're in space, you're writing the score for the story of two guys who meet and become the best of friends. And that's when I came up with the theme that's in the movie."

Scene from Up
Up tells of an old man and a boy scout who travel to South America

At this year's Grammy Awards, Giacchino found himself in the unusual position of being nominated against himself - for Up and Star Trek.

Up won.

"I got e-mails from the director of Up saying 'I'm glad you beat that guy who composed the music for Star Trek," laughs Giacchino. "Then I got a letter from JJ saying congratulations on winning for the wrong film."

At the Oscars, Giacchino's original score for Up is up against Avatar, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Hurt Locker and Sherlock Holmes.

Having won a Bafta in February, Giacchino has not long to wait if he can follow it up with his first ever Academy Award.

There may even be a few tears.



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