HANS ZIMMER


August 2021


Hans Zimmer is arguably one of the most prolific and successful film Composer. Born in 1957 in Frankfurt, Hans states his first music memories were attending an opera as a toddler, and that he had been surrounded by music before anything else. Intrigued and interested by sounds and how to assemble them, nothing he learned in school was as interesting as music. While kids got together for play dates, he preferred play dates at home with his piano and play music with grown-ups. He played many original pieces of music, moving from piece to piece without recording anything. Hans could not think of anything else other than playing music.

He credits Ennio Morricone and especially the music of "Once Upon a Time in the West" for triggering his desire to become a film Composer. Before composing for the film industry, young Hans did what most young musicians do, play in a band in late 1970's London, and later on joined the band "The Buggles" which had a big hit in 1979: "Video killed the radio star".

While going from one band to another, Hans simultaneously wrote music for jingles and commercials. In the early 1980's, Hans with veteran film Composer Stanley Myers created their own recording studio in London with the objective of merging traditional orchestral sounds with electronic instruments. Hans scored a few films with Stanley Myers but his first solo score was "Terminal Exposure" in 1987. The same year, he produced the score for the Bernardo Bertolucci film "The Last Emperor". The music was composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Byrne, Cong Su and won the Oscar for best original score in 1988.

To make extra money and pay the rent, Hans worked for television, as well as composing musical themes for TV and game shows. His first Hollywood success came with Director Barry Levinson in 1988. Levinson was looking for a Composer to score the music of "Rain Man". Impressed by the music Hans Zimmer composed for the film "A World Apart", Levinson asked Hans to compose the music and it was nominated at the 1989 academy awards. Hans’s career was on the fast track, adding projects and successes on top of one another, such as Driving Miss Daisy, Backdraft, Thelma and Louise, Regarding Henry, The Lion King, Crimson Tides, The Rock, As Good as it gets, Gladiator, Hannibal, The last Samurai, Inception, etc.


With the success of Rain Man in 1989, Hans received many phone calls from Hollywood Directors and Producers. To organize and manage its time, he founded a company called "Media Ventures Entertainment Group", later renamed "Remote Control Productions, Inc." after disagreements with his then partner Jay Rifkin. Remote Control Production is the home of a large group of Composers mentored by Hans Zimmer. Remote Control Productions produces many film scores every year and while Hans cannot compose them all, he is involved in the artistic direction of them all. Hans creative process will vary but it often begins with a Director calling him and stating: "I want to tell you a story". Hans likes to be involved early on, so his conversations with Authors, Directors and Producers have a lot of weight on his musical ideas for the film. Other times, the story is shot with an already edited picture, so it is easier to score. Unlike other artforms, composing music for a film requires input from others, so that connection can make the process more difficult if there is little to no chemistry. This is the reason why Composers like to work with Directors they know and get along with. So after working on various projects, a good Composer will be able to anticipate a Director’s expectations. Hans understands how to enhance the emotional value of a scene but is also aware that music should not become more intense than images. From one film to another, Hans is constantly redefining the art of film scoring. The music from the "Dark Knight Trilogy" demonstrated what the music of a superhero movie should be.


It is always difficult for a Composer to score a piece of music and wait for feedback. The delay time in receiving reaction is torture. This is why Hans likes performing live in front of an audience, as it is instant gratification and the live communication with other musicians on stage is second to none. There is an audience for live film music but we should probably just call it music. Hans really enjoys sharing his work live before an audience and has been successful doing it. "The World of Hans Zimmer tour" or "Hans Zimmer Live" or again "Hans Zimmer Revealed" are proof that there is a live audience for score music.

Despite a remarkable career spanning over 40 years, you’d think Hans Zimmer would take it easy and relax, but music is his life and he keeps pushing boundaries and experimenting on new sound frontiers.

Hans has been criticized at times for his extensive use of sampling, but he says that people have the wrong impression, he is not trying to copy the sound of an orchestra but rather expand on that sound. It is a different thought and technical process. His fascination for the sampling technology brought him to collaborate with "Spitfire Audio" to create a library of sounds sampled by Hans and Spitfire and used in many of Hans' scores. While listening to a Director discussing a story, Hans usually imagines sonic environments to transport the viewers beyond the images, not just melodies. He creates soundscapes and atmospheres to enhance the emotional value of the story.