Academy Award-nominated film composer, Danny Elfman has revealed that he created his iconic score for Batman in what he has described as being “the most awkward, but equally funny, way possible.” He recently shared that he composed the hit film’s music while he was on a flight to Los Angeles, but the way he approached creating the score frightened the flight attendants on board.
While Elfman was a guest on an episode of the podcast, WTF with Marc Maron, last week, he recalled that he began creating the score for director Tim Burton’s acclaimed 1989 superhero film while returning home from visiting the feature’s set in London. He admitted that while he was traveling back to L.A., the inspiration for the drama’s music “hit me at the worst possible time. On the way home, the thing hits me. And it was like, what do I do? I’m on a 747. How do I do this?…I’m going to land and they’re going to play some Beatles song, and I’m going to forget everything.”
The musician further divulged that he had the recorder that he took everywhere with him on the plane, so he used it to begin composing Batman‘s score. “I start running in the bathroom and I go back to my seat, and I’m thinking. Ten minutes later, I go back in the bathroom,” he said. “And then back to my seat and then back to the bathroom, because I couldn’t do this with the guy sitting next to me.”
Eventually, one of the flight attendants was waiting for Elfman when he opened the bathroom door and tried going back to his seat. He shared that the flight attendant asked him if he was okay, but didn’t seem to believe him when he tried to insist that he wasn’t doing anything wrong.
When the composer went back to the bathroom 10 minutes later, he was greeted by three flight attendants, who once again questioned what he was doing. He admitted that they suspected that he was doing drugs in the bathroom, so he had to reassure them again that he was fine, and wasn’t committing a crime.
Elfman later went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition for Batman in 1990. However, despite his work being honored with the Grammy, he revealed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that he wasn’t entirely pleased with how his score was used in the movie. The musician said he was reasonably happy with the mix of the score, but was disappointed with the dub, which is how the music was transferred into the film.
“They did it in the old-school way where you do the score and turn it into the ‘professionals’ who turn the nobs and dub it in,” Elfman shared during the interview. “And dubbing had gotten really wonky in those years. We recorded on three channels — right, center, left, — and basically, they took the center channel out of the music completely.”
Despite his initially concerns about how his score was used in Batman, Elfman has continued his working relationship with Burton over the past several decades. The musician composed the scores for several of the Oscar-nominated writer-director’s subsequent movies, including the Batman sequel, Batman Returns, as well as Edward Scissorhands, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, Big Eyes and, most recently, Dumbo.