Interview With Paul Tonks
PHILIP KAUFMAN REMEMBERS"I knew Denny in college, and we were friends in San Francisco for a number of years. When the opportunity to do a score with him came up, I really thought that the film's nature of paranoia was ideal for him. Rather than Denny as a psychiatrist trying to cure paranoia, I thought he would be perfect to try and create paranoia! I thought it was an interesting thing for a psychiatrist to do, being an expert on the thing, and I thought that Denny's score was spot on. Plus the jazz inflection he was able to give it was great for San Francisco at that time.
"I've asked him to do others, but so much time is required to do a music score, and he has a full practice so can't take the time out. But I was so grateful 20 years ago; because I was able to work closely with him and he had all these wonderful ideas. He came on as most composers do once we were finished. I know I had some battles to fight to get him on board because he hadn't really done a score prior to that. I took the producer to a jazz club to see Denny perform. I think that helped get him the job.
"A lot of composers will pull a score out of the trunk so to speak. Denny's just not that type of guy. For him it has to be totally original. Body Snatchers was so perfect because paranoia was so pervasive in the piece, that Denny was able to reach into his psychiatry practice and pull out notes and sounds. I know people at the time thought it was one of the best scores they'd heard.
This score is something that's been sort of lost in time, although I would hesitate a guess that it's been oft copied! I do think it was seized upon by a lot of people. At the time we were trying to make not just a science fiction movie but also a film noir, which was not widely used at the time. We tried to use some black and white lighting and create that noirish atmosphere. And Denny was able to bring colours in the music to match that tone. In many ways while it was a study of paranoia, it was meant to be humorous in many ways and some aspects of Denny's score have a kind of playfulness. It isn't the kind of standard droning notes of dread. It's a much more active score, and playful and thoughtful than most composers would give you.
"With a film score it's always a question of where does the score belong? Does it play over the whole movie? Does it play over the subjective feelings of a character? Where does each cue lie and come in? It's very hard to get a unity of instrumentation and conceptualisation rather than being just sort of shameless, which a lot of composers are. They just give you a shameless big orchestral score without really pinpointing what that score is enhancing. Denny is a very articulate man and these things were largely what our conversations were about. It was a wonderful memorable experience for me."