John Ottman is one of the biggest composers in the film business. Coming off his work on the smash hit X-Men: Days of Future Past, John sat down with us for San Diego Comic-Con to discuss his work on a myriad of superhero films, his frequent collaborations with Bryan Singer, and how he's thrived for more than twenty years not only as a composer, but also as an equally talented film editor.
How would he say things are different now compared to when he began his career in 1993? "In some ways, nothing's changed at all, save for the fact I need more sleep as I get older," he laughed. "But the flip side of that is that you have a growing shorthand, at least with Bryan. There's a trust factor that allows the process to be a little more smooth for me, because basically I'm allowed to do what I want to do and he trusts that I'm going to do it. I can concentrate on my work much easier."
John and Bryan have worked on so many films together, from Singer's debut Public Access to The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil, Superman Returns, Valkyrie, Jack the Giant Slayer and two X-Men pictures, X2: X-Men United and this May's Days of Future Past. John's other work includes Fantastic Four and its sequel Rise of the Silver Surfer, Unknown, and the recent Liam Neeson-on-a-plane thriller Non-Stop, just to name a few of many. When you've got a major motion picture to do, this is the guy that you want to call.
If you couldn't tell, he's done a few superhero films, so we asked him what continues to draw him back to that genre. "I don't seek them out," he explained. "Inevitably a superhero film is going to be a large movie, and so they're attractive for any composer...[In] superhero films, like animated films, you have very defined characters with abilities that are beyond what we see in a normal movie. The music is allowed to sort of go with the flow."
When Bryan returned to the X-Men franchise after a thirteen-year break, John rejoined him to provide the score for Days of Future Past. With thirteen years between films, did he look at the new picture as an entirely fresh project, or still try to maintain some continuity with what he'd composed more than a decade prior?
"Both, actually," he explained. "I did want there to be some continuity between at least two movies of the X-Men franchise, because none of them had been scored by the same composer. It was very fulfiling for me to be able to resurrect my theme for X-Men 2 and bring it to this one. To actually finally build some connection between films in the franchise.
"Having said that, this was a very different score as well. It's over a decade later and film scoring has changed slightly. I had to keep those sensibilities in mind, and have it be a little more modern. It's a darker film and[also] dealing with different time periods."
"I look very fondly back on my experience on X-Men 2. I look at it as a high point in my career, because it was the first big movie I tackled as a composer and an editor," John added. "I just remember it being a very positive experience. Being involved in that film made me a very die-hard X-Men fan and very passionate about the X-Men universe." And that passion is evident in the score he put together for Days of Future Past.