Elfman at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2010
|Birth name||Daniel Robert Elfman|
May 29, 1953 |
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Genres||New wave, alternative rock, film music|
|Occupations||Composer, singer-songwriter, record producer, actor, voice actor|
|Instruments||Trombone, violin, guitar, percussion, vocals, piano, keyboard|
|Associated acts||Oingo Boingo, James Newton Howard|
Daniel Robert "Danny" Elfman (born May 29, 1953) is an American composer, known as the lead singer and songwriter for the rock band Oingo Boingo, from 1976 to 1995 and later for scoring music for television and film and creating The Simpsons main title theme as well as the 1989 Batman movie theme. He has scored the majority of the films for his long-time friend Tim Burton.
Born in Los Angeles, he entered the film industry in 1976, initially as an actor. He made his film scoring debut in 1980 for the film Forbidden Zone directed by his older brother Richard Elfman. He has since been nominated for four Academy Awards and won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media for Tim Burton's Batman and an Emmy Award for his Desperate Housewives theme. Elfman was honored with the prestigious Richard Kirk award at the 2002 BMI Film and TV Awards. The award is given annually to a composer who has made significant contributions to film and television music.
Early life and career
Danny Elfman was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Blossom Elfman (née Bernstein), a writer and teacher, and Milton Elfman, a teacher who was in the Air Force. Elfman grew up in a Jewish family. He was raised in a racially mixed community in the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles. He spent much of his time in the local movie theatre, adoring the music of such film composers as Bernard Herrmann and Franz Waxman. Stating that he hung out with the "band geeks" in high school, he started a ska band. After dropping out of high school, he followed his brother Richard to France, where he performed with Le Grand Magic Circus, an avant-garde musical theater group. Violin in tow, Elfman next journeyed to Africa where he traveled through Ghana, Mali, and Upper Volta, absorbing new musical styles, including the Ghanaian highlife genre which would eventually influence his own music.
He contracted malaria during his one-year stay and was often sick. Eventually he returned home to the United States, where he began to take Balinese music lessons at CalArts. During this time, he was romantically involved with Kim Gordon, who would later go on to form Sonic Youth. He was never officially a student at the institute, nonetheless, the instructor encouraged him to continue learning. Elfman stated, "He just laughed, and said, 'Sit. Play.' I continued to sit and play for a couple years." At this time, his brother was forming a new musical theater group.
In 1972 Richard Elfman founded the American New Wave band/performance art group, originally called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. They played several shows throughout the 1970s until Richard Elfman left the band to become a filmmaker. As a send-off to the band's original concept, Richard Elfman created the film Forbidden Zone based on their stage performances. Danny Elfman composed his first score for the film and played the role of Satan (the other band members played his minions). By the time the movie was completed, they had taken the name Oingo Boingo and begun recording and touring as a rock group. From 1976 and on, it was led by Danny Elfman, until 1995 when they suddenly retired. The semi-theatrical music and comedy troupe had transformed into a ska-influenced new wave band in 1979, and then changed again towards a more guitar-oriented rock sound, in the late 1980s.
Elfman and Tim Burton
In 1985, Tim Burton and Paul Reubens invited Elfman to write the score for their first feature film, Pee-wee's Big Adventure. Elfman was apprehensive at first because of his lack of formal training, but with orchestration assistance from Oingo Boingo guitarist and arranger Steve Bartek, he achieved his goal of emulating the mood of such composers as Nino Rota and Bernard Herrmann. In the booklet for the first volume of Music for a Darkened Theatre, Elfman described the first time he heard his music played by a full orchestra as one of the most thrilling experiences of his life. Elfman immediately developed a rapport with Burton and has gone on to score all but two of Burton's major studio releases: Ed Wood which was under production while Elfman and Burton were having a fight, and Sweeney Todd. Elfman also provided the singing voice for Jack Skellington in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas and the voices of both Barrel and the "Clown with the Tear-Away Face". Years later he provided the voice for Bonejangles the skeleton in Corpse Bride.
Burton has said of his relationship with Elfman: "We don't even have to talk about the music. We don't even have to intellectualize – which is good for both of us, we're both similar that way. We're very lucky to connect" (Breskin, 1997).
Elfman cited his first time noticing film music being when he heard Bernard Hermann's score to The Day the Earth Stood Still as an eleven-year-old and being a fan of film music since then. Nino Rota also served as a significant influence and was the main inspiration for Elfman's score to Pee-wee's Big Adventure. Other influences based in film music include Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Max Steiner, David Tamkin and Franz Waxman. Elfman's classical influences include Béla Bartók, Philip Glass, Lou Harrison, Carl Orff, Harry Partch, Sergei Prokofiev, Maurice Ravel, Erik Satie, Igor Stravinsky and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
When asked during a 2007 phone-in interview on XETRA-FM if he ever had any notions of performing in an Oingo Boingo reunion, Elfman immediately rejected the idea and stated that in the last few years with the band he had begun to develop significant and irreversible hearing damage as a result of his continuous exposure to the high noise levels involved in performing in a rock band. He went on to say that he believes his hearing damage is partially due to a genetic predisposition to hearing loss, and that he will never return to the stage for fear of worsening not only his condition but also that of his band mates.
Elfman recently composed the music for the Cirque du Soleil Show IRIS, which is being performed at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. The production began its year-long run on July 21, 2011, but it is predicted that it may run for the coming decade. This is Elfman's most significant non-film work since he composed Serenada Schizophrana for the American Composers Orchestra. It was conducted by John Mauceri on its recording and by Steven Sloane at its premiere at Carnegie Hall in New York City on February 23, 2005. After its premiere, it was recorded in studio and released onto SACD on October 3, 2006. The meeting with Mauceri proved fruitful as the composer was encouraged then to write a new concert piece for Mauceri and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Elfman composed an "overture to a non-existent musical" and called the piece "The Overeager Overture". He also continues to compose his film scores in addition to these other projects. In November 2010, it was reported that Danny Elfman is writing the music for a planned musical based on the life of Harry Houdini. But, as of January 2012, he was no longer attached to the project.
In October 2013, Elfman returned to the stage to sing his vocal parts to a handful of Nightmare Before Christmas songs as part of a concert titled Danny Elfman's Music from the Films of Tim Burton. He composed for the 2013 hit film Oz the Great and Powerful.
Elfman has three children: Lola, born in 1979; Mali, born in 1984; and Oliver, born in 2005. On November 29, 2003, Elfman married film actress Bridget Fonda. In 1997 he scored A Simple Plan – his only score for one of her films to date (although he did compose a cue for the film Army of Darkness, in which Fonda has a cameo). He is the uncle of actor Bodhi Elfman, who is married to actress Jenna Elfman, who played Dharma in the TV series Dharma and Greg.
Describing his politics during the 1980s, Elfman said, "I'm not a doomist. My attitude is always to be critical of what's around you, but not ever to forget how lucky we are. I've traveled around the world. I left thinking I was a revolutionary. I came back real right-wing patriotic. Since then, I've kind of mellowed in between." In 2008, he expressed support for Barack Obama and said that "Sarah Palin was my worst nightmare."
Appearances by Elfman as a composer, or as a member of Oingo Boingo:
|1977||I Never Promised You a Rose Garden||Yri drummer||Also featured Richard Elfman|
|Hot Tomorrows||Singer||Directed by Martin Brest|
|1981||Urgh! A Music War||Himself||Part of Oingo Boingo|
|1982||Forbidden Zone||Satan||Directed by Richard Elfman|
|1984||Good Morning, Mr. Orwell||Himself||Part of Oingo Boingo|
|1985||Pee-wee's Big Adventure||Tim Burton||Original soundtrack released as part of the Elfman/Burton box set|
|1986||Back to School||Himself||Part of Oingo Boingo Original soundtrack released as part of the Elfman/Burton box set|
|1987||Summer School||Carl Reiner||Soundtrack (includes one Elfman song; no score)|
|Wisdom||Emilio Estevez, Robert Wise||Soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande|
|Midnight Run||Martin Brest||Soundtrack released by MCA|
|Big Top Pee-wee||Randal Kleiser||Soundtrack (including dialogue) released by Arista, reissued by PEG|
|Hot to Trot||Michael Dinner||Suite included on Music for a Darkened Theatre, Vol. 1|
|Scrooged||Richard Donner||Suite included on Music for a Darkened Theatre, Vol. 1; complete score released by La-La Land Records|
|1989||Batman||Tim Burton||Soundtrack (re-released with complete score from La-La Land Records); Won his only Grammy 32nd Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media|
|Nightbreed||Clive Barker||Soundtrack released by MCA|
|1990||Dick Tracy||Warren Beatty||Soundtrack; Nominated for 33rd Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television|
|Edward Scissorhands||Tim Burton||Soundtrack; Nominated for 34th Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television|
|1992||Article 99||Howard Deutch||Soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande|
|Batman Returns||Tim Burton||Soundtrack released by Warner Bros. Records; re-released with complete score from La-La Land Records|
|1993||Sommersby||Jon Amiel||Soundtrack released by Elektra|
|Army of Darkness||Sam Raimi||"March of the Dead" theme by Danny Elfman, rest of the score by Joseph LoDuca|
|Nightmare Before Christmas, TheThe Nightmare Before Christmas||Henry Selick||Soundtrack released by Walt Disney Records|
|1994||Black Beauty||Caroline Thompson||Soundtrack
Expanded edition released by La-La Land Records
|1995||Dolores Claiborne||Taylor Hackford||Soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande|
|Dead Presidents||Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes||Soundtrack (one Elfman track; suite also included on Music for a Darkened Theatre Vol. 2)|
|To Die For||Gus Van Sant||Soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande (score + songs)|
|1996||Mission: Impossible||Brian De Palma||Soundtrack (songs + three brief Elfman suites); Score album|
|Frighteners, TheThe Frighteners||Peter Jackson||Soundtrack|
|Freeway||Matthew Bright||Suite included on Music for a Darkened Theatre Vol. 2|
|Extreme Measures||Michael Apted||Soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande|
|Mars Attacks!||Tim Burton||Soundtrack released by Atlantic; expanded edition released by La-La Land Records
First Elfman score to get an expanded release
|1997||Men in Black||Barry Sonnenfeld||Soundtrack (two Elfman cues); Score album; Nominated for 70th Academy Award for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score & for 40th Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television|
|Flubber||Les Mayfield||Soundtrack released by Walt Disney Records|
|Good Will Hunting||Gus Van Sant||Soundtrack (two Elfman cues); Nominated for 70th Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score|
|1998||Simple Plan, AA Simple Plan||Sam Raimi||Soundtrack released by Compass III|
|A Civil Action||Steven Zaillian||Soundtrack|
|Anywhere But Here||Wayne Wang||Soundtrack released by Atlantic (includes one score suite)|
|Sleepy Hollow||Tim Burton||Soundtrack released by Hollywood Records|
|2000||Proof of Life||Taylor Hackford||Soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande|
|The Gift||Sam Raimi||Cameo appearance|
|Family Man, TheThe Family Man||Brett Ratner||Soundtrack released by Sire Records (two Elfman cues)|
|2001||Planet of the Apes||Tim Burton||Soundtrack released by SME; complete score released by La-La Land|
|2002||Spider-Man||Sam Raimi||Score album; Song album; Nominated for 45th Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media|
|Men in Black II||Barry Sonnenfeld||Soundtrack released by Columbia Records|
|Red Dragon||Brett Ratner||Soundtrack released by Decca Records|
|Chicago||Rob Marshall||Soundtrack (two Elfman tracks)|
|2003||Hulk||Ang Lee||Soundtrack released by Columbia Records|
|Big Fish||Tim Burton||Soundtrack; Nominated for 76th Academy Award for Best Original Score, for 61st Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score & for 47th Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media|
|2004||Spider-Man 2||Sam Raimi||Soundtrack; Score album|
|2005||Charlie and the Chocolate Factory||Tim Burton||Soundtrack; Nominated for 48th Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media (Wonka's Welcome Song)|
|Corpse Bride||Tim Burton||Soundtrack|
|2006||Deep Sea 3D||Howard Hall||Serenada Schizophrana|
|Nacho Libre||Jared Hess||Soundtrack (score suite)|
|Charlotte's Web||Gary Winick||Soundtrack|
|2007||Meet the Robinsons||Stephen Anderson||Soundtrack|
|Kingdom, TheThe Kingdom||Peter Berg||Soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande|
|2008||Standard Operating Procedure||Errol Morris||Soundtrack|
|Hellboy II: The Golden Army||Guillermo del Toro||Soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande|
|Milk||Gus Van Sant||Soundtrack released by Decca Records; Nominated for 81st Academy Award for Best Original Score & for 52nd Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media|
|2009||Notorious||George Tillman, Jr.||Soundtrack (one Elfman track), soundtrack released by Universal Music Group|
|Terminator Salvation||McG||Soundtrack released by Warner Bros. Records|
|9||Shane Acker||Music themes only, score composed by Deborah Lurie
Soundtrack available on Rhino Records and score album released by Lakeshore Records
|Taking Woodstock||Ang Lee||Song soundtrack on Rhino Records with four Elfman cues; score album on La-La Land Records|
|2010||Wolfman, TheThe Wolfman||Joe Johnston||Soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande|
|Alice in Wonderland||Tim Burton||Soundtrack released by Walt Disney Records; Nominated for 68th Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score & for 53rd Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media|
|Next Three Days, TheThe Next Three Days||Paul Haggis||Soundtrack released by Lionsgate|
|2011||Restless||Gus Van Sant||Soundtrack released by La-La Land Records|
|Real Steel||Shawn Levy||Song album on Interscope with one Elfman cut; score album released by Varèse Sarabande|
|2012||Dark Shadows||Tim Burton||Song album with two Elfman cuts and score album released by WaterTower Music|
|Men in Black 3||Barry Sonnenfeld||Soundtrack released by Sony Classical|
|Frankenweenie||Tim Burton||Soundtrack released by Walt Disney Records|
|Silver Linings Playbook||David O. Russell||Song album with two Elfman cuts and score album released by Sony Classical|
|Hitchcock||Sacha Gervasi||Soundtrack released by Sony Masterworks|
|Promised Land||Gus Van Sant||Soundtrack released by Relativity Music Group|
|2013||Oz the Great and Powerful||Sam Raimi||Soundtrack released by Walt Disney Records|
|Epic||Chris Wedge||Soundtrack released by Columbia Records|
|American Hustle||David O. Russell||Soundtrack released by Madison Gate Records; one Elfman cut|
|2014||Mr. Peabody & Sherman||Rob Minkoff||Soundtrack released by Relativity Music Group|
|Big Eyes||Tim Burton|
In addition, he has supplied thematic material - except where noted - for movies scored by others (names in brackets):
- 1985: Weird Science: title song (Ira Newborn)
- 1991: Pure Luck (Jonathan Sheffer)
- 1992: Army of Darkness: "March Of The Dead" (Joseph LoDuca)
- 1994: Shrunken Heads (Richard Band)
- 1997: Scream 2: "Cassandra Aria" and "Cassandra Aria Reprise" (Marco Beltrami)
- 1998: Modern Vampires (Michael Wandmacher)
- 1999: My Favorite Martian: "Uncle Martin's Theme" (John Debney)
- 2001: Heartbreakers (John Debney)
- 2001: Spy Kids (Chris Boardman, John Debney, Gavin Greenaway, Harry Gregson-Williams, Heitor Pereira, Marcel Rodriguez and Robert Rodriguez)
- 2001: Novocaine (Steve Bartek)
- 2007: Spider-Man 3 (Christopher Young, John Debney and Deborah Lurie; also includes material composed by Elfman for the first two films)
- 2010: Kick-Ass: "Walk to Rasul's" (John Murphy, Henry Jackman, Marius de Vries, and Ilan Eshkeri)
He has also written the theme music and occasional episodic scores for several television series, including:
- 1985: Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "The Jar" (directed by Tim Burton)
- 1985: Amazing Stories: "Mummy, Daddy" and "The Family Dog" (with Steve Bartek)
- 1986: Pee-wee's Playhouse (episodes: "Moster", "Cowboy and Cowtess", "Store", and "Pee-Wee Catches A Cold")
- 1986: Sledge Hammer! (theme only)
- 1989: Tales from the Crypt (theme only)
- 1989: Beetlejuice (theme only)
- 1989: The Simpsons (theme only)
- 1990: The Flash (theme only)
- 1992: Batman: The Animated Series (theme only)
- 1997: Perversions of Science (theme only)
- 1999: Dilbert (theme only, rearrangement of Forbidden Zone)
- 2004: Desperate Housewives (theme only)
- 2005: Point Pleasant (theme only)
His other work includes:
- 2004: The opening title theme of the 2004 video game Fable.
- 2008: Soundtrack to the 2008 video game Lego Batman: The Videogame (various tracks from the soundtrack of the movie: Batman).
- 2008: The opening title theme as well as major themes of the 2008 video game Fable II.
- 2009: The opening title theme as well as major themes and soundtrack of the 2009 video game Wanted: Weapons of Fate.
- 2010: The opening title theme as well as major themes of the 2010 video game Fable III.
- 2012: Soundtrack to the 2012 video game Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (various tracks from the soundtracks of the movies: Batman and "Batman Returns").
- 2013: Music and some vocals for Hong Kong Disneyland attraction Mystic Manor.
Awards and nominations
American Film Institute
- "Danny Elfman interview". Bluntinstrument.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-02-02.
- "Batman (1989) Awards, IMDB.com". Retrieved 27 September 2012.
- "Composer Danny Elfman Scores First Emmy Award".
- "Top Film, TV, Cable Composers Honored at BMI's Annual Film/TV Awards". bmi.com. Retrieved 2010-10-28.
- "Danny Elfman profile at FilmReference.com". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
- "Elfman in L.A.". Elfman.filmmusic.com. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
- "Buzzine". Buzzine. 2009-05-07. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
- "Video Entertainment Magazine interview, April 4, 1996". Boingo.org. 1996-04-04. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
- "Fanfare Article". Boingo.org. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
- Salisbury, Burton, pp.137-144
- Florino, Rick (December 14, 2010). "Danny Elfman Talks Tim Burton Scores, Bernard Hermann's Influence and More". ARTIST direct. Retrieved May 7, 2012.
- Lustig, Jessica. "An interview with composer Danny Elfman". American Composers. Retrieved May 7, 2012.
- Vozick-Levinson, Simon (November 2, 2010). "Aaron Sorkin writing Hugh Jackman's Houdini musical: Composer Danny Elfman has 'high hopes'". Popwatch.EW.com. Retrieved December 4, 2010.
- Potts, Kimberly (January 4, 2012). "Hugh Jackman, Aaron Sorkin Teaming for 'Houdini' musical". thewrap.com.
- Ng, David (September 18, 2013). "Danny Elfman concert of Tim Burton film music adds third performance". September 18, 2013. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
- "Danny Elfman's Music from the Films of Tim Burton". BBC Concert Orchestra. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
- "Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul". Boingo.org. 1955-05-29. Retrieved 2013-02-02.
- "Battling Our Greatest Fear". Huffington Post. 2008-10-30.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Danny Elfman.|
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Danny Elfman|
- Danny Elfman at the Internet Movie Database
- Danny Elfman at AllMusic
- Danny Elfman discography at Discogs
- Danny Elfman discography at MusicBrainz
- Danny Elfman's Music For A Darkened People
- The official Oingo Boingo website
- Danny Elfman podcast interview from Synthesis (magazine)
- Danny Elfman Interview With Entertainment Weekly