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Interview: Fifteen Time Oscar Nominated Composer Thomas Newman on Music and Scoring ‘Elemental’

Thomas Newman should have at least one or two Academy Awards by now. Of his fifteen Oscar nominations (fourteen are for Best Original Score, while one is for Best Original Song), there are certifiable classics in the mix. A small sampling of his nominated work includes American Beauty, Finding Nemo, Road to Perdition, The Shawshank Redemption, Skyfall, and WALL-E (times two). Newman is at the peak of composers, so not having that statue is a crime. Regardless of that, whenever he has a new film out with his score, it’s cause to celebrate. Pixar’s Elemental is just such an occasion. Earlier in the week, Newman and I were able to spend some time chatting about it, which was a delight. Previously, I spoke to Elemental director Peter Sohn and producer Denise Ream here, as well as stars Mamoudou Athie and Leah Lewis here. Today, it’s Newman’s turn to talk about Pixar’s latest.

Below, you can see my conversation with Newman. We met on Zoom to chat about Elemental, but the discussion is very much about how he does his job in general. Composing film scores is a talent beyond my wildest comprehension, so with Newman being among the best in the business, picking his brain was a real pleasure. So many of his scores are iconic, attached to classic movies, that it was literally talking to a master. Elemental is just one new example of a genius at work.

In my review of Elemental (here), I said the following about the music, tied into the technical aspects of the film:

Director Peter Sohn brings a real personal aspect to this story. Sohn’s relationship to his parents informs the plot, with lovely results. The direction showcases strong pacing and a great sense of both humor and romance. The script, written by John HobergKat LikkelBrenda Hsueh, and Sohn, is very clever. They also include a perfectly placed dirty joke towards the end that had me howling. Composer Thomas Newman contributes a wonderful score, truly surrounding the terrific visuals with some memorable music. Sohn and company put their all into this project and it really shows.


Here now is my interview with Elemental composer Thomas Newman. Enjoy:

Elemental is in theaters now!


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Written by Joey Magidson

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