Fall 2015

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53 FALL 2015 / CINEMONTAGE by Bill Desowitz portraits by Wm. Stetz M usic Editor Ramiro Belgardt is no stranger to the Star Wars saga. He got in just in time to work on 2005's Revenge of the Sith, the last of the prequel trilogy, which was supposed to be the end of the franchise. Yet now he's back for a reboot — the first episode of a Star Wars sequel trilogy with The Force Awakens, which premieres in Los Angeles December 14 through Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, and opens worldwide later that week. Belgardt's experience has been a combination of looking forward and backward at the same time, with John Williams scoring his seventh Star Wars movie since 1977 and director J.J. Abrams helming his first. Reportedly, the 49-year-old director was unwilling to commit until Lucasfilm head and producer Kathleen Kennedy hooked him with the question, "Who is Luke Skywalker?" Thus, the new film is a continued exploration of the tension between what's good and bad — which is what originally fascinated Star Wars creator George Lucas. "This is a new, energetic reboot," suggests Belgardt, who's not quite a stranger to Abrams either, having temp music edited the director's Super 8 (2011) and the two Star Trek reboots (2009, 2013). "J.J. is approaching this as a fan of Star Wars, and so he loves it when John quotes musical themes that work from the original," the music editor explains, taking a break from the film's post process for this CineMontage interview. "However, both he and John are cautious about wallowing too much in nostalgia; neither of them want to do that. But when it's appropriate, it totally works. There are moments when you feel you literally could not play anything else. It resonates." Indeed, the original Star Wars score has culturally resounded for nearly 40 years, earning Williams his third Oscar out of five, and being placed first on the American Film Institute's list of the 25 greatest scores of all time. "There aren't many of them [themes], but there are a few that I think are important and will seem very much a part of the fabric of the piece in a positive and constructive way," Williams told Vanity Fair earlier this year. There's the rousing main title, naturally, along with iconic cues for Luke (brassy, masculine, heroic), Princess Leia and Han Solo (romantic) and The Force (majestic), of course. (See related sidebar, page 57.) From the start, Lucas' mandate for Williams was to contrast the futuristic with the familiar, so the composer chose a 19th century-style symphonic score and combined it with echoes from Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Warner Bros.' swashbucklers of the 1930s. The result was lush, operatic and well- timed retro. "It's all a continuation of an initial set of ideas," continued Williams — who next year will be the first composer to receive the illustrious AFI Life Achievement Award — in the Vanity Fair interview. "It's a bit like adding paragraphs to a letter that's been going on for a number of years. Starting with a completely new film, a story that I don't know, characters that I haven't met, my whole approach to writing music is completely different — trying to find an identity, trying to find melodic identifications if that's needed for the characters, and so on." The new cast of characters includes Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger from the desert planet of Jakku; Finn (John Boyega), a former Stormtrooper; Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), a hotshot X-wing pilot for the Resistance; and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), commander of the First Order (an Empire splinter group) who's strong with the Force. Obviously, The Force Awakens also reunites Luke (Mark Hamill), Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han (Harrison Ford) with a new generation more than 30 years after Return of the Jedi (1983). It's a continuing struggle May the Score Be with You Music Editor Ramiro Belgardt Returns for 'Star Wars' Reboot Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. Lucasfilm

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