1917's Sam Mendes and Thomas Newman and 5 other director-composer collaborations

Directors will frequently collaborate with the same familiar faces, and that is often the case when it comes to directors and composers.

One such winning combination is Sam Mendes and Thomas Newman, with their latest film 1917 marking the seventh time they have worked together.

Ahead of the release of the World War I epic, we take a look at some of the other great – and often award-winning – director and composer collaborations…

1. Steven Spielberg and John Williams

Steven Spielberg and John Williams’ working relationship spans more than 40 years and over 30 films. Williams is responsible for some of the most iconic movies of all time, and his partnership with Spielberg encompasses masterpieces such as Jaws, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and E.T. It is clearly a winning combination as well, as three out of Williams’ five Oscar wins have been for Spielberg directed films: Jaws, Schindler’s List and E.T.

2. Tim Burton and Danny Elfman

Where there is Tim Burton, there is invariably always Danny Elfman, and the two have been creating musical magic together since 1985’s Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. There is a playful quirkiness to Elfman’s scores that perfectly suits Burton’s dark fairytales, and their partnership has brought us memorable scores for movies such as Edward Scissorhands, Batman and Alice in Wonderland.

In an interview with Variety, Elfman remarked that he “wouldn’t have a career were it not for Tim”, and that through their 30 year partnership he has had opportunities to score everything from comedies like Pee-Wee to melancholic romances such as Edward Scissorhands. Amazingly, neither Burton or Elfman has won an Oscar, but who knows what the future may hold for them both…

3. Christopher Nolan and Hans Zimmer

Christopher Nolan and Hans Zimmer have so far worked on six films together. This includes Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, Interstellar and Dunkirk. Both Inception and Dunkirk have pulse-racingly tense music to accompany the equally exciting action sequences, and the epic, organ-laden score for Interstellar perfectly matches the grandeur of Nolan’s sprawling sci-fi flick.

Amazingly, Zimmer has only ever won one Oscar – for The Lion King in 1994 – although Inception, Interstellar and Dunkirk were all nominated. However, Nolan’s next film, Tenet is being scored by Black Panther’s Ludwig Göransson as Zimmer is already committed to composing the music for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. Tenet is released in July 2020.

4. Paul Thomas Anderson and Jonny Greenwood

Director Paul Thomas Anderson and composer Jonny Greenwood are already building a reputation for some winning collaborations. Also the lead guitarist for Radiohead, Greenwood has composed four scores for Anderson: There Will Be Blood, The Master, Inherent Vice and Phantom Thread.

The first three scores on that list were overlooked at the Oscars, but long-overdue recognition came with 2017’s Phantom Thread, for which Anderson and Greenwood received nominations. Whilst release date is not confirmed yet, Anderson is currently working on another project in 2020, although Greenwood’s involvement is yet to be confirmed.

5. Wes Anderson and Alexandre Desplat

The quirky aesthetic of a Wes Anderson film is unmistakeable, but let’s also credit composer Alexandre Desplat. From 2009’s Fantastic Mr Fox onwards, Desplat has provided the soundtrack to all of Anderson’s films, also including Moonrise Kingdom, the Oscar-winning The Grand Budapest Hotel and Isle of Dogs.

With Desplat on the scoring stage, you’re guaranteed a treat for the ears as well as the eyes, from the gently tinkling Eastern European tones of Grand Budapest to the thunderous Taiko drums of Isle of Dogs. Previously, it was Mark Mothersbaugh who provided the music for Anderson’s films, but it seems Desplat is here to stay as he is already committed to providing the music for Anderson’s next feature, The French Dispatch, releasing in March 2020.

6. Sam Mendes and Thomas Newman

Last but by no means least is the iconic pairing of director Sam Mendes and composer Thomas Newman, who reunite for eagerly anticipated war movie 1917. Their previous credits: American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Jarhead, Revolutionary Road, and Bond movies Skyfall and Spectre.

Of these, American Beauty, Road to Perdition and Skyfall all picked up Oscar nominations, and indeed American Beauty won Sam Mendes his first Oscar. Given the number of incredible scores Newman has been responsible for, and the fact he has been nominated for Oscars 14 times but never won, he is certainly long overdue an award.

Emotive and powerful scores frequently get the attention of the Academy and war movies in particular normally perform very well. Given the technical prowess of 1917 (it gives the illusion of being filmed in one shot by the great Roger Deakins), it is highly likely it will at least receive recognition, and who knows, it may even be the film that finally gets Newman his much-deserved Oscar…

1917 is released on the 10th of January, so tweet us @Cineworld with your favourite director-composer collaborations.

Sarah Buddery is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team. Follow her on Twitter.