Dario Marianelli

Oscar winning composer Dario Marianelli has written music for some of Hollywood’s biggest films including Atonement and Anna Karenina. M quizzes him on how he started writing music for the silver screen...

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 21 Nov 2013
  • min read
Italian born Dario Marianelli is perhaps one of film music’s most decorated composers. 

He’s written soundtracks for The Brothers Grimm (2005), Pride & Prejudice (2005), Atonement (2007) and Anna Karenina (2012). The last three were all Oscar-nominated while in 2008, Dario won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for the Atonement score.

His forthcoming projects are thought to include Third Person, a new film from Paul Haggis starring Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis and Adrien Brody.

Dario is participating in BAFTA's Conversations with Screen Composers series next week on 25 November. In the run up to the event Dario answered our questions on his career and how he got into scoring films...

When did you first start composing?

In the early 90s when I was involved in fringe theatre. In the same period I also started writing some concert pieces.

When did you get your big break?

I was lucky as there were many of them. Perhaps the most important was my very first movie Ailsa from 1994. This project set me down the musical path I am still following to this day.

How did you get into scoring films?

Inadvertently. I simply said yes to a young director who was looking for a composer on his first feature. He had heard some of my theatre music and liked it. Then I kind of got bitten by the bug and wanted to do more. I enrolled at the National Film School as a result.

What are the biggest challenges you face when writing for film?

The first week is always the hardest. It’s all about coming up with ideas and playing them to the director for the first time. It can be scarey.

What do you regard as your best work?

I am particularly proud of Anna Karenina and I think I managed to learn a few things on that score.

You’ve worked with director Joe Wright on four films - how did those collaborations come about and which was the most complex?

They came about from a first good conversation, on our first meeting. We just got on. Anna Karenina was by far the most complex score we worked on (with The Soloist coming a close second even if it mainly consisted in rearranging Beethoven's work).

You’ve won many awards – including two Ivors, an Oscar, Golden Globe, Classical BRIT – which one really stands out for you, and why?

It's good to have them all! They help, in dark moments, to remind me I could write music...

Which contemporary composers do you rate, and why?

I like what I have heard of Thomas Adés and I like very much the music of Kevin Volans and Gyorgy Kurtag. I find it fresh, witty and profound at the same time.

I also like some more minimal music: John Adams, Steve Reich. And a couple of composers who died quite recently: Ligeti and Lutoslawski.

What are you working on at the moment?

A children animation and one very-much-NOT-for-children revenge movie.

If you could offer one piece of advice to upcoming screen composers, what would it be?

Be lucky (and don't forget to have a life, while you are waiting for the ‘big break’)!