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Review of Interview: Marco Beltrami Talks Scoring Venom: Let There Be Carnage

The comic book sequel Venom: Let There Be Carnage is currently playing in theaters packing a ton of action, a wild Tom Hardy performance, and an electrifying score from Marco Beltrami. was lucky enough to speak to Marco about his work on the film, which marks the composer’s latest foray into the comic book genre following notable stints on films such as Blade II, Hellboy, and Logan, among others.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is based on the Marvel character created by Randy Schueller, Roger Stern, Tom DeFalco, Mike Zeck, and Ron Frenz. The sequel stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Reid Scott, Woody Harrelson, and Peggy Lu and is being produced by Hardy, Marcel, Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach, Amy Pascal, and Hutch Parker.

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You’re having quite the year with A Quiet Place Part II, Nine Perfect Strangers, Fear Street, and now Venom: Let There Be Carnage. What draws you to a project? Is it talent, subject matter, or all of the above?

All of the above. I am pretty choosey. Each project I decide on comes down to whether I feel like I can contribute to it – that’s probably the most significant factor. If I see the movie and have ideas right away and think I can do something with them … for instance on Fear Street, the director Leigh Janiak, she wrote the music with my soundtrack to Scream in mind. It was pretty much an homage to Wes Craven, so that was something I was close to from the beginning.

With Venom, to me this project really was an opportunity to stretch my compositional wings a little bit. You know, you get to work with a big orchestra and you get to cover a lot of ground from fun buddy-themed movie to sort of gothic horror to action type stuff. It’s also a twisted love story as well, so it covers a lot of emotional directions. For me, that’s always a lot of fun.

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Were you familiar with the character before tackling this project?

A little bit. I did see the first movie, but I didn’t read the comics. I knew the vibe of it and thought it would be something fun to do, and hearing that Andy Serkis was doing it, I knew it would be something special.

Speaking of Andy Serkis, how was your collaboration with him?

It was a little bit different than most films because of the time period. It was the beginning of COVID when we started having conversations. Normally, I would actually meet him in person and we would go through the movie, talk about scenes and go over particular pieces of music and what his thoughts were. We had to do this all over the phone — he was in London and we weren’t able to meet. He was working on the picture and he had an editor and they had some music in [the film], and I could sort of get a feel for what they were going for. I think the biggest takeaway I got out of speaking with him was everything in this movie had a balance and you had to be very careful about that balance. There’s this fun element to the movie. You want it to have that fun tone, but you don’t want it to go too over the line because then it becomes goofy. So, it’s all about balancing on a razor-sharp line. Those were some of the things we talked about early on.

You’re picking up the reins from Ludwig Göransson, who scored the original film. Was it a matter of picking up where he left off or coming into this project completely fresh?

Well, for whatever reason they wanted to change composers and they wanted a fresh perspective on the whole story and characters. So, I pretty much started from scratch with all the themes and everything. I know Ludwig and I’m a fan of his music. In this case, it was just a matter of starting from scratch.

What is your approach to film music? Do you start at a specific moment in the film and work backward? Or do you start with a character or theme?

Neither of those. With a project like this, I work usually from a really general overview of thematic elements. There’s a theme for Venom, there’s a buddy theme for Eddie and Venom, and Eddie has a theme. There’s a theme for Carnage and a theme for the love story. Working on these ideas — maybe looking at things against picture, but not specifically working on scenes — is the way I work. Then, I share these things with Andy or the studio, receive feedback, and specifically adapt those ideas to specific scenes.

The process on this was a little abnormal because of COVID. On a movie like this, a lot of people were involved and working separately so it was a little challenging. But I have a music editor named Jim Schultz who is amazing and he would also try things, cut a few things to picture and see what the reactions were and move more specifically to individual scenes.

Do you compose the traditional orchestra music first and then overlay the digital sounds?

Actually, no. The electronics are all created pretty early in the process. When I think of the electronics, I think of them like woodwinds or brass sections. You have to know what you’re writing for. So, a lot of these sounds for Carnage, for instance, his thematic stuff was created by taking a source and feeding it back and creating tones with the feedback. These are things you need to know ahead of time and you write the orchestral stuff in conjunction with this. The orchestral stuff can be replaced later, but the electronic stuff is what it is in the score. So, it’s important to create the template accurately from the beginning and know what the elements are that you’re working with.

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Is any of your work improvisational?

Not really. You might hear something and use more of it in a final mix or adjust something or stumble upon an idea. But I would say that’s a really small percentage. Otherwise, 90% of the score is planned and written out.

What was the most complex sequence for you to score on Venom?

As we were working on it, everything was in flux and a lot of areas — the effects and such — weren’t done. So, the whole cathedral fight at the end of the movie was all storyboard. So, it was a little hard to know exactly what was happening moment to moment. The music is very cue-y. In the battle when one character starts beating the other, the music needs to acknowledge that. That’s really challenging because it was hard knowing what we were doing moment to moment. The sequence is very important musically because all the themes really come together in that sequence. You have Carnage’s theme and Cletus’ theme and Venom’s theme and the love theme and everything. So, that probably took the longest to do. We would start sketching a version of it and as the picture became more developed we would refine the music. You don’t just write the cue and turn it in, it evolves with the picture.

You’ve been involved with a number of comic book films during your career. Is there a specific character or villain you’d like to score for in the future?

No, not really. I really enjoyed the ones I’ve done. I enjoyed Hellboy a lot. It was a lot of fun working with Guillermo [Del Toro] on that. Venom was a lot of fun. It’s hard to know until you’re working on a project how rewarding it’s going to be. There’s a lot of people and a lot of elements that go into making something a rewarding process.

What are you most excited for fans of the series to hear from your score?

I think that ending sequence is really a lot of fun. When I went to the playback fo the movie I thought it played really well and was mixed really well. I’m curious to see if fans are digging the Venom theme and Eddie and Venom’s relationship. I think it all plays well. I hope my instincts are correct.

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