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A prolific, Italian-born film composer who had his start with the teen horror franchise "Scream," Marco Beltrami was raised in the U.S. and underwent intensive musical training both abroad and at Yale University, composing music for symphonies and dance ensembles before entering the world of film and television scoring with projects like "Hellboy" (2004) and blockbuster sequels such as "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" (2003). Outside of his genre work, Beltrami held that contemporary film music should include a variety of musical styles and instruments, which he put to use with his critically acclaimed work on the Scandinavian film "I am Dina" (2002) before returning to mainstream films with his traditional sweeping music for "3:10 to Yuma" (2007). After writing the scores for the long-awaited sequel "Live Free or Die Hard" (2007) and the comic book actioner "Max Payne" (2008), he penned the Oscar-nominated music for "The Hurt Locker" (2009), which propelled him onto the upper tier of Hollywood composers.Beltrami was born Oct. 7, 1966 in Fornero, Italy, and immigrated with his Italian born-father, a mathematic professor, and his Greek-American mother, to Long Island, NY, where he grew up. He...
A prolific, Italian-born film composer who had his start with the teen horror franchise "Scream," Marco Beltrami was raised in the U.S. and underwent intensive musical training both abroad and at Yale University, composing music for symphonies and dance ensembles before entering the world of film and television scoring with projects like "Hellboy" (2004) and blockbuster sequels such as "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" (2003). Outside of his genre work, Beltrami held that contemporary film music should include a variety of musical styles and instruments, which he put to use with his critically acclaimed work on the Scandinavian film "I am Dina" (2002) before returning to mainstream films with his traditional sweeping music for "3:10 to Yuma" (2007). After writing the scores for the long-awaited sequel "Live Free or Die Hard" (2007) and the comic book actioner "Max Payne" (2008), he penned the Oscar-nominated music for "The Hurt Locker" (2009), which propelled him onto the upper tier of Hollywood composers.
Beltrami was born Oct. 7, 1966 in Fornero, Italy, and immigrated with his Italian born-father, a mathematic professor, and his Greek-American mother, to Long Island, NY, where he grew up. He began taking piano lessons at age six, but like many composers-to-be, the restless Beltrami avoided the monotony of practicing by making up his own music; often rewriting what he was supposed to be learning. By the time he was a teenager, he had discovered rock music and played keyboards in several bands in high school. But after graduation, despite his talent and love of music, he enrolled at Brown University to study urban planning. Despite his academic choice, Beltrami soon discovered the electronic music studio on campus and began experimenting with emerging synthesizer technology, creating musical compositions combining electronics and more classical European styles. Upon graduating from Brown, he went back to Italy to study music in Venice under the tutelage of avant-garde composer, Luigi Nono, before earning a scholarship at Yale where he earned a Master's Degree in Twentieth Century Music.
Convinced that true American music composition should reflect a variety of melting pot styles - where street music would carry the same influence as scholarly works - Beltrami began to carve out his own musical niche and accepted an invitation to compose music for the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He then entered a program at the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music taught by long-time film composing legend, Jerry Goldsmith. While learning about film scoring, a discipline he knew little about, Beltrami wrote music for the North Carolina Dance Festival and for the Chicago Civic Orchestra, as well as the Oakland East Bay Symphony. But his first film work was for the USC short film, "The Bicycle" in 1994. Realizing that film scoring - aside from teaching - was an ideal way to make a living, Beltrami's first jobs included the low-budget thrillers "Death Match" (1994) and "The Whispering" (1996), as well as the late-night cable television series "Love Street" (Showtime, 1994). From there, he moved on to score the main titles and nearly every episode of the short-lived drama series "Land's End" (syndicated, 1996), where he honed his skills writing music week after week.
Beltrami eventually started earning industry-wide notice, coming to the attention of veteran horror director Wes Craven, who was looking for a composer for his teen horror thriller, "Scream" (1996). He asked Beltrami to score a 13-minute segment towards the beginning of the film as a tryout. Beltrami downplayed the fact that he had never seen a single horror film, and ended up turning out the tape in a single weekend, landing him the job. What could easily have been a throwaway teen horror thriller, "Scream" reinvigorated the horror movie, Craven's career, and teen movie genres. Beltrami stuck around for the 1997 and 2000 sequels, even though they incorporated additional music by other composers, thanks to positive reactions from test audiences to temporary music; an occasional result of test screenings. Beltrami would have the chance to turn the tables and reap the benefits of such circumstances when his "Scream" music placed temporarily in "Halloween: H20" (1998), generating positive reactions at screenings and prompting the studio to bring him in to write similar but original music retaining his flavor and style for the final film.
Meanwhile, the non-horror film fan found himself unable to resist a slew of offers for scary movies, including "The Faculty" (1998), "The Crow: Salvation" (2000) and "Angel Eyes" (2001), and additional Wes Craven films such as "Dracula 2000" (2000) and much later, the DreamWorks airline thriller "Red Eye," starring Rachel McAdams in 2005. On the way, he formed an unlikely working partnership with Goth music maven Marilyn Manson when they composed together the soundtrack to the horror thriller "Resident Evil," (2002) and he struck up an extensive working relationship with Guillermo Del Toro, beginning with "Mimic" (1997) which made use of tango arrangements unusual for a horror film, followed by "Blade II" (2002). Despite his extensive genre work, it would be his score for the television drama "David and Lisa," (ABC, 1998) produced by Oprah Winfrey and a decided departure from genre work, that would earn Beltrami his first Emmy nomination.
Beltrami again stepped out of the horror genre in 2002 with "I Am Dina," his second outing with Norwegian director Ole Bornedal, after working together on the 1999 psychological drama for Scandinavian television "Deep Water." For this epic period film about a temperamental Norwegian cellist, Beltrami again mixed style and instruments, including folk fiddles with electronic manipulations, and would go on to say it was one of his favorite projects, regretful that it did not have a U.S. theatrical release.
Back in the mainstream, Beltrami began graduating into the big leagues of blockbuster feature films, often with sequels to existing franchises that managed to capitalize on existing music, while also veering into new directions, depending on the project. In 2003, he scored "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," the last Terminator project to feature Arnold Schwarzenegger before his entry into politics. Director Jonathan Mostow was eager to set his film apart from previous installments, and to that end, Beltrami favored choral and percussion rhythms for a score that critics considered more accessible, if not as memorable as the monolithic original score from Brad Feidel years earlier. Beltrami went on to score the Will Smith actioner "I, Robot" (2004), the remake of "Flight of the Phoenix" (2004), and the Ice Cube vehicle "xXx: State of the Union" (2005). Teaming again with director Len Weisman, with whom he worked on the vampire sequel "Underworld: Evolution," Beltrami scored the long-awaited "Die Hard" sequel, "Live Free or Die Hard."
Contributing to Beltrami's growing fanbase was "Hellboy," the popular graphic novel adaptation that marked Beltrami's ongoing collaboration with Guillermo del Toro. Recognizing a need for a heroic theme that also reflected the soulful nature of the tortured, beast-like lead character played by Ron Perlman under heavy makeup and prosthetics, Beltrami incorporated a baritone guitar and a horn section to evoke nobility. The film went on to become an under-the-radar hit. Before returning to his horror movie origins with the remake of "The Omen" (2006) followed by the modest teen thriller, "The Invisible," (2007), the controversial "Captivity" (2007), and the Jessica Alba vehicle "The Eye" (2008), Beltrami stretched his composing muscles again with the little-seen but critically acclaimed "The Three Burial of Melquiades Estrada," (2005), a contemporary western directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones.
Still harboring long-time wishes to explore the wide open canvas of a true period western, Beltrami got his wish with "3:10 to Yuma," for which he would earn his first Oscar nomination. A remake of the 1957 B-movie Western of the same name, director James Mangold's effort was a clear and largely successful attempt at an upgrade, with Russell Crowe in the tough outlaw part originally played by Glenn Ford, and Christian Bale as the hapless and debt-ridden farmer who takes the high-paying job of escorting the captive gunman to the 3:10 train to Yuma for trial. Evoking classic western motifs, Beltrami's score drew notices for evoking the style of classic western composers such as Ennio Morricone, but also the more majestic, sweeping gestures of his former instructor Jerry Goldsmith. The final score included a lone trumpet wailing a melancholy main theme, mixtures of percussion and strings, and unusual elements such as acoustic and even electric guitar in some instances. The successful film promised to elevate the ailing western genre, and solidify Beltrami among composers to be reckoned with. Beltrami reached new heights when he scored "The Hurt Locker" (2009), director Kathryn Bigelow's spellbinding drama that focused on the U.S. Army's Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit serving in the Iraq War. The film earned Beltrami his second Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score.
By Matthew Reynolds
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