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MohicanLand Musical Musings: The Music of The Last of the Mohicans

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Randy Edelman in December 1996 by Film Score Monthly. This excerpt includes his viewpoint about how he was brought into the project and how he was responsible for the making of the CD soundtrack. Film Score Monthly has said they would like to interview Trevor Jones to get his side of the story, but that has not been done yet. Or, read the complete interview with Randy Edelman in Film Score Monthly #76, December 1996.

In the following excerpt from the interview, "AD" refers to Andy Dursin of Film Score Monthly, and "RE" refers to Randy Edelman.

The Last of the Mohican Confusion

AD: There have been lots of rumors and misinformation about how Michael Mann worked on the music with you and Trevor Jones on The Last of the Mohicans. What was the whole story?

RE: First of all, that whole situation was a nightmare. The movie was over budget, there was a mess with the studio, etc. The only reason Morgan Creek got the rights to not just the music and the album but all the overseas rights is because the whole situation was out of control. Even though Daniel Day-Lewis was so great, he wasn't a box-office star, [and the feeling was that] you had this big, three-and-a-half hours long period epic without anybody in it, and this was what I was thrown into. So, basically, this is a known thing.

There wasn't even supposed to be any soundtrack CD. When I put all the music together, not just my music, I was very clear that I put all my stuff on one side of the record and all of what remained of Trevor Jones's music on the other side, so it was very clear [whose music was what] and it has remained that way.

What happened was that Trevor, who I don't really know at all, was the composer on the project and, without getting into details because I don't even know about details or care about them, there were problems. And I was brought in by Fox when I say late in the game, I mean at the 11th hour, and ended up not collaborating, but recommending what to include [from the original score because] I didn't have time. I had to write a shitload of music, and do it quickly, which I did. It ended up a 50-50 split, and that's what happened.

AD: Did you re-score the entire movie?

RE: No, no. I scored what I scored, and they used every second of what I scored. It was just funny, because when we got nominated for the British Academy Awards and the Golden Globes, there was all this stuff out there but it was always clear [whose music belonged to whom]. It wasn't clear what had happened, but as far as my involvement went, it was very clear what I did, which is why I made sure my half-hour or whatever it is of music on that CD is clearly Randy's and the other tracks are clearly Trevor's. There was a lot of stuff that went on with that, but the bottom line is that the movie was a tremendous success, the record is Platinum, and everyone should tip their hat to me instead of giving me a lot of shit. Do you know what I mean? I was the guy who was placed in this terrible position to come in with no time and write a lot of emotional, big stuff, and what I got, and this was not from the participants or Trevor or anything, I got all these strange kind of reactions like "What is this? What happened?"

And to be very honest with you, and it's true, I [still] don't know the specifics. Obviously, there was a problem with Michael Mann and the previous composer. It was my recommendation to keep the previous composer involved, because in this very short amount of time, you have no idea what's going on, or know how crazy it was [for me] to write so much music. I ended up having the best time with Michael Mann, even though everyone refers to him being so difficult. It was all about work, and we just burned 24 hours a day for that amount of time, and in the end, the thing was very successful and the music, right from the get-go, was just astounding. Everybody who saw that film walked out and went to a store to buy the CD, and guess what, it wasn't there! [laughs] Because nobody really ever wanted it to happen, but luckily, at the last second, after we were done recording, I put that album together not even knowing that it was going to be released. In the end, Morgan Creek, who really didn't even have a record label but who had bought the overseas rights to that movie, ended up doing my record, and thank God it was there even though it was a few weeks after the fact. Luckily, they stayed with it, and the album was massively successful, but you don't know how close it was to not happening at all or not being done within the certain amount of time that you can get it together. If they had literally waited for the movie to come out and the album hadn't been together and it was a question of waiting the eight weeks to put it together, it would have been much too late. So luckily, soon as everyone saw the movie and heard the score and realized how terrific it was, they went ahead and did it.

AD: Did they want you to re-score the entire film?

RE: You know what, I don't want to talk about that because there's been so much that's gone on with that that I'd rather not discuss it. Because it doesn't mean anything and I don't really know this other person and there's been so much weirdness going on that to get into... well, you have to remember that the movie wasn't released when it was supposed to. Let's put it this way, it may have been a different story had everybody known that at the time. It was supposed to come out in July. Well, it didn't come out until October, but nobody knew that at the time they were completing the movie. So, it may have been different, and it may have been the same.

It was just too bad that there was so much stuff going on about it but, in the end, all people have to do is look at the music, and look to the scores, and listen to the CDs, and it's very clear, and I'm really glad that I did it that way. Because it could have been like a hodge-podge of this-cut-to-that-cut or cues [pertaining to] the sequence of the movie, and that's the reason why I did it, because in literally five minutes, I had to make a decision on how I would [put the album together], because I was the one who put it all together. It doesn't say that, but basically I was the one.

AD: Did you ever think for a second that, given the horrendous back-story of the film and your experience on it, the project would be so successful in its reaction from critics and audiences?

RE: No, not in that case. I knew the movie was beautiful and wonderful. [However, I still think] that Daniel Day-Lewis never received any credit for what this guy did as an actor in that picture. Just for him to look that way... if you ever saw this guy, he's probably the meekest physically imposing person, he's so gentle. You look at him [in the movie] and you can't believe it. Just the way he moved and pumped himself up, I thought it was great and I never thought he got credit for that.

AD: I was surprised the movie didn't receive a handful of Oscars...

RE: I wasn't shocked. It wasn't one of these overwhelming, $100 million pictures. It did very, very well, but it wasn't like it was [a blockbuster]. So, I wasn't shocked when it wasn't nominated, or he wasn't nominated, or Madeleine Stowe, who was so great in it, wasn't nominated.

As far as the success of these pictures go, I try not to think about it and I really have no idea. I thought Diabolique was going to be very successful, and it was like, "Hello!" I would never have thought something like While You Were Sleeping would be this big, all-over-the-world commercial success. It was a nice cute movie. I thought Indian in the Cupboard was wonderful, and it would be very successful. You just don't know. I have Daylight coming out in a couple of weeks, and I have absolutely no idea how it's going to do. Is it good? Yeah, it's a wonderful ride and it's emotional, it has all the elements, but I really don't know how it's going to go over with all the other pictures that are coming out.

The nice thing about what I do, even though I'm in the pressure cooker, is that, by the time most of these things come out, you're completely engrossed in something else, and it's kind of nice because you're not on the edge of your seat.

For me, the kick of this whole thing is writing the score, going in the room every morning, and by 8 o'clock at night, you've written something that didn't exist at 8 o'clock in the morning. And that's the excitement, having those few moments where you're not blasted out by sound effects and they don't lower the music, a few moments in a movie that's created by so many people that, in the end, at the final mix or the premiere, you feel that you've done it. That's kind of neat, that you did that at three in the morning, not with someone screaming in your ear or by having the studio telling you what the numbers were or what the audience is for this score or that it has to be an urban kind of score or whatever. You have to sit there and make the decision, and it's your decision, and if it works well, in the right way, then in the end, the music adds that element that nothing else can add. That's really what it's all about.

So, there it is. Not a close-knit group. So did it work out all right? On one hand, we have Randy Edelman to thank for the inconvenience of the music being presented HIS way rather than OUR way––what convenienced him rather than what convenienced those who were paying his wages (as purchasers of the film and CD). On the other hand, and in fairness, it appears (from his point of view, at least) as though we need to thank the same Randy Edelman very sincerely for the fact that we have a CD release at ALL! And I DO thank whomever was responsible for that CD, and thanks to Randy Edelman for his excellent contributions to the soundtrack!!

Read about Trevor Jones
Read about Randy Edelman
Read about the organization of the CD
Back to the beginning of MohicanLand Musical Musings

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