Zimmer, Hans

views updated Jun 27 2018

Hans Zimmer


For the Record

Selected discography


The film scores of composer Hans Zimmer are as varied as the films they provide music for. One score may cause the viewer to laugh harder, another may make the heart pound faster, and yet another might make a moviegoer cry harder. Im this loose cannonall over the place, Zimmer told Edwin Black in Film Score Monthly online. I can do action movies and romantic comedies. The bottom line is Im trying to serve the film just like the director is trying to serve the film. After nearly 20 years as a composer, Zimmer has provided musical scores for more than 80 films.

Hans Florian Zimmer was born on September 12, 1957, in Frankfurt, Germany. His interest in music began at a very early age. He began playing piano at the age of three, but his interest in lessons waned after just two weeks. When he was six years old, he decided that he wanted to become a composer. My dad died when I was six, Zimmer told CNN Worldbeat. Thats when I decided I was going to become really serious about music, because it was my refuge. It was my way of calming the demons in me or at the same time sometimes letting them roar, letting them rip, letting the monster out and seeing that it wasnt so scary being able to look it in the eye.

When Zimmer was 14 years old, he moved to England. Throughout his childhood, he was expelled from several different schools because he preferred to study music instead of his schoolwork. When he finally finished school, he began his music career by writing jingles for commercials and playing in rock bands. In 1979, Zimmer, along with Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, put together a band called the Buggies. The group recorded the album The Age of Plastic, which included the hit song Video Killed the Radio Star. The video for the single became the first ever to be shown on MTV.

Despite the groups success, Zimmer did not enjoy the recording process with the Buggies, and he was not happy having to write only one style of music. I used to be in a band, but that got to be boring, Zimmer later recalled to David Kohner Zuckerman in Brtnwd magazine. Now I have bigger bands for shorter periods of time.

After leaving the Buggies, Zimmer went to work for composer Stanley Myers, who began to teach him more about scoring films. Stanley took me in, Zimmer told Cinemusic online. From the first day that I was his assistant, he just let me write things. I thought it was great that there was that system in place whereby someone who really knew a lot would give you room and support, and bring you up and give you a chance. Zimmer and Myers set up the Lillie Yard Studio in London. They collaborated on several film scores, including Moonlighting, The Lightship, The Castaway, and My Beautiful Launderette.

For the Record

Born Hans Florian Zimmer on September 12, 1957, in Frankfurt, Germany; married Suzanne; two children.

Began playing piano at the age of three; decided to become a composer at the age of six; moved to England, 1971; started his music career writing jingles for commercials; formed the Buggies rock band, released single Video Killed the Radio Star and album The Age of Plastic, 1979; composed first film score for Moonlighting, 1982; credited with more than 80 film scores, 19822001.

Awards: Academy Award, Best Original Score, 1995; Golden Globe, Best Original Score, 1995; Chicago Film Critics Award, Best Score, 1995; two Grammy Awards for Lion King, 1995; American Music Award, Best Album of the Year, 1995; Grammy Award for Crimson Tide, 1996; BMIs Lifetime Achievement Award, 1996.

Addresses: Business Media Ventures, 1547 14th St., Santa Monica, CA 90404, website: http://www.media-ventures.com.

In 1986, Zimmer worked by himself on the score for Vardo. The following year, he teamed with David Byrne and Ryuichi Sakamoto to produce the soundtrack for The Last Emperor. By the mid 1980s, his career as a film composer was well on its way, but it was in 1988 that it truly took off. Zimmer had composed the score for a small budget film called A World Apart, which was about South Africa. The wife of producer Barry Levinson played the soundtrack for her husband about the time that he was getting ready to hire someone to score Rain Man. Levinson was so impressed with Zimmers work that he hired him to score his film as well. Zimmer won an Academy Award nomination for his work on Rain Man. He moved to Los Angeles following the success of the film.

In 1989 Zimmer won a Grammy Award nomination for his work on Driving Miss Daisy. He also received industry and audience recognition for the score for Thelma & Louise in 1991. In 1994, Zimmer produced his most successful score up to that point when he worked on The Lion King. The soundtrack became the most successful in the history of Walt Disney Records with 12 million copies sold worldwide. The following year, Zimmer won a Golden Globe for Best Original Score, a Chicago Film Critics Award for Best Score, an American Music Award for Best Album of the Year, two Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, and a Tony Award nomination for Best Original Score for The Lion King on Broadway.

Zimmer saw his success with The Lion King as a fork in the road of his career. Lion King made me reassess my situation in this town, Zimmer told Black. You can go two ways. I admit that standing on the stage and getting an Oscar [Academy Award] is the most seductive moment one can have in ones life. It is truly overwhelming. Then you go, Wow, if I just carry on writing nice music like this, I can have this moment again Thats why I did the exact opposite, scoring for truly offensive projects like The Fan. Just to shake myself out of the desire for that Oscar experience. Otherwise, I would just stagnate.

Although he chose to take the path less glittered, Zimmer did continue to receive recognition for his work. In 1996, he won a Grammy Award for his score for Crimson Tide, and he received another Academy Award nomination for The Preachers Wife. That same year, the performing rights organization BMI presented him with its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award before Zimmer was even 40 years old. He received another Academy Award nomination in 1998 for the score to As Good As It Gets.

In the late 1990s, Zimmer accepted a position as head of the music division with the DreamWorks SKG studio. While there, he supervised the music for all of their film and television projects and wrote the score for the animated feature The Prince of Egypt, which earned him both a Golden Globe nomination and an Academy Award nomination. He also wrote the score for The Road to El Dorado, another DreamWorks animated feature. In 2000, Zimmer worked with DreamWorks and director Ridley Scott on the hit film Gladiator. He also wrote the score for Mission: Impossible 2, released that same year. On October 10, 2000, Zimmer performed a rare live concert with the Flemish Radio Orchestra in Ghent, Belgium, to celebrate the opening of the 27th Flanders International Film Festival. The following year, his scores appeared on two more hit movies, Hannibal and Pearl Harbor.

In addition to his work as a composer, Zimmer formed a business with his partner Jay Rifkin called Media Ventures in 1989. The company serves as a conglomerate of composers who can produce and record nearly anything related to media music. The business also gives Zimmer a way to help talented new composers in the same way that Myers helped him when he was just starting out. In the end, though, Zimmers heart is firmly planted in film scoring. If something happened where I couldnt write music anymore, it would kill me, he told CNN Worldbeat. Its not just a job, its not just a hobby; its why I get up in the morning.

Over the years, Zimmer has earned a reputation for maximizing the use of electronics and technological inventions in his music. As such, he has been able to produce sounds and textures that had not previously been heard in film music. Despite all of the recognition he has received for his work, Zimmer remains one of his own harshest critics. Of all the scores he has written, he has been proud of very few. Those that make his list of personal favorites include A World Apart, Driving Miss Daisy, Drop Zone, True Romance, The Fan, Crimson Tide, Prince of Egypt, and Two Deaths, a small film he did for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in the United Kingdom.

Selected discography

As film scorer

Rain Man, Capitol, 1989.

Thelma & Louise, MCA, 1991.

A League of Their Own, Columbia, 1992.

K2Music Inspired by the Film, Varese, 1992.

True Romance, Morgan Creek, 1993.

Cool Runnings, Sony, 1993.

The Fan, TVT Records, 1996.

The Preachers Wife, BMG/Arista, 1996.

As Good As it Gets, Sony, 1998.

Prince of Egypt, UNI/DreamWorks, 1998.

Millennium: Tribal Wisdom, Narada, 1999.

Thin Red Line, RCA Victor, 1999.

GladiatorMusic from the Motion Picture, Decca, 2000.

Mission: Impossible 2, Hollywood Records, 2000.

The Wings of a Film, Decca, 2001.

Hannibal, Decca, 2001.

Pearl Harbor, Warner Bros., 2001.



Brntwd (Santa Monica, CA), May-June 2000.

Entertainment Weekly, June 24, 1994.


Fearless Visionary: Hans Zimmer, Cinemusic, http://www.cinemusic.com (June 23, 2001).

Hans Zimmer, Film Score Monthly, http://www.filmscore-monthly.com (June 23, 2001).

Hans Zimmer, Llio, http://www.ilio.com/artists/zimmer (June 23, 2001).

Hans Zimmer, Ovation: The Arts Network, http://www.ovationtv.com/rhythm/hzimmer (June 23, 2001).

Hans Zimmer (Composer), Sony Pictures Classics, http://www.spe.sony.com (June 23, 2001).

Hans Zimmer: The Man Behind The Lion King Soundtrack and More, CNN Worldbeat, http://cnn.com.tr/2000/ (June 23, 2001).

Hans Zimmer: They Shoot, He Scores, American Society of Composer, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), http://www.ascap.com/playback (June 23, 2001).

Pearl Harbor, Cinemusic, http://www.cinemusic.com (June 23, 2001).

Walt Disney Records: Biography of Hans Zimmer, Walt Disney Records, http://disney.go.com/disneyrecords (June 23, 2001).

Sonya Shelton

Zimmer, Hans

views updated May 21 2018


Composer. Nationality: German. Born: Hans Florian Zimmer in Frankfurt, Germany, 12 September 1957; moved to London, 1971. Education: Attended high school in London; no formal music education. Family: Married to Suzanne Zimmer; two children. Career: Composed advertising jingles, 1973–75; wrote songs for rock bands The Buggles, Tangerine Dream, and Ultravox; rock musician and composer, 1970s and 1980s; first film soundtrack, 1982; worked as assistant to and established Lillie Yard Studio with Stanley Myers, 1982; first solo film score, 1988; scored several television series, including Millenium, 1992, Space Rangers, 1993, The Critic, 1994, and High Incident, 1996; established Media Ventures, 1992; head of the music department at DreamWorks SKG, 1997. Awards: Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score, Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement with Accompanying Vocals, and Golden Globe for Best Original Score-Motion Picture, for The Lion King, 1994; Tony Award for Best Original Score for Broadway, for The Lion King, 1995; Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television, for Crimson Tide, 1996; BMI Award for lifetime achievement, 1996; Glaubber Award for Best Original Score-Comedy or Musical (Brazil), for As Good As It Gets, 1998; Golden Satellite Award for Best Motion Picture Score, for The Thin Red Line, 1999. Agent: Gorfaine-Schwartz Agency, 3301 Barham Blvd., Suite 301, Los Angeles, CA 90068, U.S.A.

Films as Composer:


Moonlighting (Skolimowski) (with Stanley Myers)


Histoire d'O: Chapitre 2 (Story of O, Part II) (Rochat) (with Myers); Success Is the Best Revenge (Skolimowski) (with Myers)


Insignificance (Roeg) (with Myers); Wild Horses (Lowry—for TV) (with Myers)


Separate Vacations (Anderson) (with Myers)


Comeback (Ambrose—for TV); Terminal Exposure (Mastorakis); The Wind (Mastorakis)


A World Apart (Menges); Twister (Almereyda); Burning Secret (Birkin); The Fruit Machine (Wonderland) (Saville); Nature of the Beast (with Myers); Paperhouse (Rose); Rain Man (Levinson) (+ musical score); Spies Inc. (Thomas); Taffin (Megahy)


Black Rain (Scott); Dark Obsession (Diamond Skulls) (Broomfield); Driving Miss Daisy (Beresford); Prisoners of Rio (Wiezien Rio) (Majewski); First Born (miniseries—for TV)


Bird on a Wire (Badham); Chicago Joe and the Showgirl (Rose); Days of Thunder (Scott); Fools of Fortune (O'Connor); Green Card (Weir); Pacific Heights (Schlesinger); To the Moon, Alice (Nelson—for TV) (as Hans Florian Zimmer); Nightmare at Noon (Mastorakis)


Regarding Henry (Nichols); Backdraft (Howard); K2 (European version) (Roddam); Thelma & Louise (Scott)


A League of Their Own (Marshall); Power of One (Avildsen); Radio Flyer (Donner); Where Sleeping Dogs Lie (Finch); Toys (Levinson)


Calendar Girl (Whitesell); Point of No Return (Badham); Cool Runnings (Turteltaub); True Romance (Scott); The House of the Spirits (August); Younger and Younger (Adlon)


Renaissance Man (Marshall); I'll Do Anything (Brooks); Drop Zone (Badham); The Lion King (Allers and Minkoff); Africa: The Serengeti (Casey)


Beyond Rangoon (Boorman); Crimson Tide (Scott); Nine Months (Columbus); Something to Talk About (Hallstrom); Two Deaths (Roeg); The Preacher's Wife (Marshall)


The Whole Wide World (Ireland); The Fan (Scott); Broken Arrow (Woo); The Rock (Bay) (+ score arranger); Muppet Treasure Island (Henson)


The Peacemaker (Leder); Scream 2 (Craven); Fräulein Smillas Gespür für Schnee (Smilla's Sense of Snow) (August); As Good As It Gets (Brooks) (+ music arranger and song producer [uncredited])


The Last Days (Moll); The Prince of Egypt (Chapman, Hickman, others) (+ lyricist); The Thin Red Line (Malick)


El Candidato (for TV); Chill Factor (Johnson)


The Road to El Dorado (Bergeron, Finn, others); Gladiator (Scott); Mission Impossible 2 (Woo)


Hannibal; Pearl Harbor

Other Films:


Eureka (Roeg) (additional composer)


My Beautiful Laundrette (Frears) (music producer)


The Last Emperor (Bertolucci) (score producer)


White Fang (Kleiser) (additional music)


Sniper (Llosa) (additional music)


Monkey Trouble (Amurri) (additional music)


White Squall (Scott) (music producer)


The Borrowers (Hewitt) (score producer); Fame L.A. (Green, Miller, others—for TV) (score producer); Face/Off (Woo) (score producer)


Endurance (Greenspan and Woodhead) (music producer); With Friends Like These. . . (music producer); Antz (Darnell, Gutterman, others) (executive music producer)


On ZIMMER: books—

Karlin, Fred, Listening to Movies: The Film Lover's Guide to Film Music, New York, 1994.

Marill, Alvin H., Keeping Score: Film and Television Music, 1988–1997, Landham, Maryland, 1998.

On ZIMMER: articles—

Marans, Michael, "Hans Zimmer," in Keyboard. vol. 15, no. 6, June 1989.

Widders-Ellis, "A World View: Under the Gun with Days of Thunder," in Keyboard, vol. 16, June 1990.

Kimble, Christopher, "Cameos: Composer Hans Zimmer," in Premiere, vol. 4, no. 9, May 1991.

Reece, D. Menken, "Zimmer Honored at BMI Film, TV Awards," in Billboard, 8 June 1996.

Burlingame, Jon, "They Shoot, He Scores," in Los Angeles Times, 15 December 1998.

Essay in Craggs, Stewart A., Soundtracks: An International Dictionary of Composers for Film, Aldershot, England, and Brookfield, Vermont, 1998.

Black, Edwin, "Interview with Hans Zimmer," in Film Score Monthly: The Online Magazine of motion Picture and Television Music Appreciation, http://www.filmscoremonthly.com/features/zimmer.asp, March 2000.

"Hans Zimmer Biography," http://www.mediaventures.com/htmls/zimmer_bs.html, March 2000.

"Hans Zimmer," http://www.german-way.com/cinema/zimmer.html, June 2000.

"The Hans Zimmer Worship Page," http://www.lionking.org/~zimmer, June 2000.

* * *

Hans Zimmer is a pioneer in computer technology, digital synthesizers, and electronic keyboards. His successful integration of digital electronics with traditional orchestral music can be heard in over 65 popular, successful, and critically acclaimed films and television shows. Despite his lack of formal training, Zimmer currently ranks among the highest paid and most fiercely sought-after Hollywood composers. His scores range from quiet and sentimental to loud and pulse-raising. In Film Score Monthly, Zimmer described himself as a "loose cannon—all over the place. I can do action movies and romantic comedies. And I'm a good collaborator—which means I'm cantankerous and opinionated. I compose from a point of view. Point of view is the most important thing to have, and it doesn't necessarily have to be the director's point of view." Zimmer's versatile sampling style and emotional attunement to the film themes contribute to his ongoing success and market appeal. His mixing of genres extends to his music education, which he describes as growing up with classical music, but reaching adolescence in rock and roll.

Zimmer has been playing piano since the age of three. By the time he was six, he knew he wanted to be a composer. His family moved all over Europe until he was 14, when they settled in London. He began his musical career in London during his late teens, composing advertising jingles. In the 1970s, he stepped onto the rock music scene and reached success with the hit song, "Video Killed the Radio Star" (1979); he also made an album entitled The Age of Plastic for the band The Buggles and promoted the use of computers live on stage with the groups Tangerine Dream and Ultravox before turning to film scores.

He ventured into film soundtracks in the 1980s with electronic effects for Jerzy Skolimowski's Moonlighting (1982). With the film composer Stanley Myers (best known for The Deerhunter), Zimmer began to fuse two musical forms, electronic and classical. Together they created Lillie Yard Studio in London to advance digital music technology. Collaborating with Myers, Zimmer created scores for Success Is The Best Revenge (1984) and Nicholas Roeg's Insignificance (1985). In the mid-1980s, Zimmer produced the score for Stephen Frear's quirky art-house film, My Beautiful Laundrette (1985). He worked with David Byrne and Ryiuichi Sakamoto to produce the music for Bertolucci's The Last Emperor (1987). He also composed the music for the Faye Dunaway and Klaus Maria Brandauer feature, Burning Secret (1988). Zimmer clearly was influenced by his apprenticeship with Myers; he has founded his own company, Media Ventures, in the early 1990s to assist fledgling talent in the film music industry.

Zimmer went solo with his haunting tribal anthems for an epic, groundbreaking film about the historic struggle in South Africa, A World Apart (1988). His music quickly caught Hollywood's attention: within the next year, he received Oscar nominations for the scores of Rain Man (1988) and Driving Miss Daisy (1989). Zimmer credits his break into Hollywood to Barry Levinson: "When you are European wanting to break into the Hollywood film business you don't stand a chance. But Barry Levinson gave me a shot in Rain Man, and that was very gracious and courageous."

The African-inspired rhythms of Disney's blockbuster, The Lion King (1994), for which he was music supervisor, song arranger, and producer, earned Zimmer his only Academy Award to date. It took him took about three and a half weeks to compose the music. The Lion King also won the Golden Globe, Chicago Film Critics Award, two Grammys, American Music Award for Best Album of the Year, and a Tony nomination for Best Original Score for The Lion King on Broadway. He received a Grammy for his Crimson Tide (1995) soundtrack, which features a majestic symphonic score and a large choir, as well as powerful 3-D sound effects that enhance the on-screen action and suspense. In the early 1990s, Zimmer also worked on compelling and invigorating music/scores for Bird on a Wire, John Schlesinger's suspenseful Pacific Heights, and Days of Thunder, starring Tom Cruise. His synthesizing can be heard in the background of Regarding Henry and Peter Weir's Green Card. Zimmer's dreamy, evocative, and emotional music enhances Ridley Scott's Thelma and Louise (1991) and Richard Donner's poignant Radio Flyer (1992). Penny Marshall's A League of Their Own, a film about the first female baseball league, starring Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, and Madonna also features a score by Zimmer. Zimmer has also ventured into the light and emotional, penning the infectious score for Barry Levingson's Toys (1992) starring Robin Williams, and Muppet Treasure Island (1996).

Zimmer has also placed his mark on films outside of Hollywood. Zimmer composed the score for his second South African film, The Power of One, directed by John Avildsen in 1992. He has worked with director Percy Adlon on Younger and Younger (1993), and with Billie August on Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997).

Zimmer was been frequently recognized for his scores, earning Oscar nominations for The Preacher's Wife (1996) and As Good As It Gets (1997). For the latter he lost out to the soundtrack for the blockbuster adventure Titanic. Zimmer was twice nominated in 1999 for Best Score Oscars for Terrence Malick's phenomenal The Thin Red Line (1998) and Disney's animated telling of the Ten Commandments, The Prince of Egypt (1998), for which he also received a Golden Globe nomination. The elegiac, lyrical music in Thin Red Line combines simple American hymns, indigenous music from the Solomon Islands, orchestral compositions with rich bass and cello lines, and a complete absence of the usual militaristic flourishes of brass, marching rhythms, and fanfares to create a tone poem that works magic with Malick's somber portrayal of the losses and anguish of war.

In 1997 Zimmer became head of the music department at DreamWorks SKG. Of the music he has composed, Zimmer claims to be proudest of A World Apart, Driving Miss Daisy and Crimson Tide.

—Jill Gillespie

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Hans Zimmer

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