Mychael Danna talks scoring Ang Lee’s new film “Life of Pi” and the art of storytelling

Composer Mychael Danna’s latest film is the picturesque fantastical thriller “Life of Pi,” his third collaboration with director Ang Lee.  Their first two endeavors together were the films “The Ice Storm” and “Ride with the Devil”.

A film about a young man’s epic journey of survival against a plethora of odds while stranded at sea, the film is also about the art of storytelling. Danna explains the reasons behind why people from all countries can relate. “We tell each other stories to better make sense of the world. This is our way of interpreting the world we live in.” With an ending left open for interpretation, he further explains our love of such stories. “There have been these myths and legends all through time. This film is about why we tell stories and how we look at things in different ways. Nature is chaotic, it doesn’t always make much sense.”

What he says was definitely a long process, he adds, was a once in a lifetime film to work on. “There’s nothing to compare it to. It’s nice that we can still make films that surprise people.” The dream for composers, he explains, is to work with challenging directors that work with material that brings out the best of their music. “It’s a dream for a composer to work with a director that brings out our best work, no matter how painful the process may be.”

Though the film is released next week, Danna tells of the fact that they just finished it a couple of weeks ago. With this project, Danna wrote the original score as well as co-writing the film’s original song “Pi’s Lullaby” with Bombay Jayashri, who performs the song in her native Tamil language. 

Drawing from a plethora of his musical talents, Danna found inspiration from church choirs, piano, Indian music and electronic music in both the writing and recording of the score.  Traveling to India to work with Jayashri and other respected Indian musicians, he was also able to incorporate such notable Western influences as the accordion and mandolin in addition to a full Los Angeles studio orchestra.

The extraordinary cast of “Life of Pi” includes Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Gerard Depardieu, Adil Hussain, Rafe Spall and Tabu. The screenplay was written by David Magee based on the novel by Yann Martel.

The Canadian composer has studied Indian music as well as music and instruments from all over the world. His world travels have helped him gain the experience necessary to become an expert in his field. He’s won five Genie Awards, the latest for his magnificent score for the Academy Award-nominated foreign language film “Water,” directed by Deepa Mehta.

His long list of credits include the multiple Oscar-nominee “Moneyball” starring Brad Pitt, the Oscar-winning “Capote” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, the Oscar-winning “Little Miss Sunshine”, the acclaimed “(500) Days of Summer” and the Oscar-winning “Girl, Interrupted”.

Watch the official Life of Pi movie trailer

photo credit: Sally Stevens

Dana Feldman

Dana Feldman

Dana S. Feldman is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area. She has worked in the entertainment industry and has gained an appreciation for the artists that make Los Angeles such a thriving city. In addition to Beatweek, Dana has also contributed to Reuters, Variety, The Examiner, ArtistDirect and IAMROGUE among several others.

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