skip navigation
Danny Elfman

Danny Elfman

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)

Recent DVDs

 
 

The Nightmare Before Christmas... "Nightmare before Christmas" (1993) features exciting stop-motion animation... more info $19.99was $19.99 Buy Now

Also Known As: Daniel Robert Elfman Died:
Born: May 29, 1953 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Los Angeles, California, USA Profession: composer, singer, musician

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Because he hailed from the annals of rock music and was never a classically trained musician, Danny Elfman struggled to gain acceptance among his peers on the road to becoming one of Hollywood's most prolific and respected film composers. Elfman began his career in the late-1970s as the singer-songwriter of the acclaimed rock band Oingo Boingo, which developed a significant following in Southern California, but failed to reach national prominence. Unable to quell occasional rumors that others had written his own scores, he found success to be the best revenge, particularly in his long-running collaboration with director Tim Burton. In fact, Elfman worked with the director on most of his films, including "Batman" (1989), "Sleepy Hollow" (1999) and "Big Fish" (2003) - the latter of which earned him an Academy Award nomination. Though he often cited Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Bartok as his favorite classical composers, Elfman felt greater affinity to classic Hollywood composers Bernard Herrmann, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Miklos Rozsa and Franz Waxman, whose influence were heard in his scores for "Men in Black" (1997) and "A Simple Plan" (1998). By the time he composed his Oscar-nominated score for "Milk"...

Because he hailed from the annals of rock music and was never a classically trained musician, Danny Elfman struggled to gain acceptance among his peers on the road to becoming one of Hollywood's most prolific and respected film composers. Elfman began his career in the late-1970s as the singer-songwriter of the acclaimed rock band Oingo Boingo, which developed a significant following in Southern California, but failed to reach national prominence. Unable to quell occasional rumors that others had written his own scores, he found success to be the best revenge, particularly in his long-running collaboration with director Tim Burton. In fact, Elfman worked with the director on most of his films, including "Batman" (1989), "Sleepy Hollow" (1999) and "Big Fish" (2003) - the latter of which earned him an Academy Award nomination. Though he often cited Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Bartok as his favorite classical composers, Elfman felt greater affinity to classic Hollywood composers Bernard Herrmann, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Miklos Rozsa and Franz Waxman, whose influence were heard in his scores for "Men in Black" (1997) and "A Simple Plan" (1998). By the time he composed his Oscar-nominated score for "Milk" (2008), Elfman had gained the respect of his critics while becoming one the top echelon composers working in Hollywood.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

4.
 Gift, The (2000) Tommy Lee Ballard
5.
 Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) Voice Of Barrel; Voice Of Clown With The Tear Away Face
6.
 Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) Singing Voice Of Jack Skellington
7.
8.
 Back To School (1986) Oingo Boingo Band Member
9.
 Score, The (2002)
10.
 Tim Burton: Trick or Treat (2001) Interviewee
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Los Angeles, CA
1971:
Followed his brother Richard to France
:
Played violin on the streets of Paris and performed with Le Grand Magic Circus, an avant-garde musical theater group
:
Left France and traveled throughout Africa; contracted malaria during his one-year stay and returned to the U.S.
:
Joined the musical theater group The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, formed by his brother; later shortened their name to Oingo Boingo
1979:
Composed first score for the film, "Forbidden Zone"; directed by brother Richard Elfman; also played the role of Satan
1982:
Scored the coming-of-age teen-comedy "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"; written by Cameron Crowe and directed by Amy Heckerling
1985:
First collaboration with director Tim Burton, "Pee-wee's Big Adventure"
1986:
TV series debut, wrote the theme music for "Sledge Hammer!" (ABC) and "Pee-wee's Playhouse" (CBS)
1988:
Composed the music for Tim Burton's "Beetlejuice"
1989:
First large-scale action score, Tim Burton's "Batman"; earned a Grammy nomination for Best Original Instrumental Background Score
1990:
Won acclaim for writing the theme music for the Fox animated series "The Simpsons"; earned an Emmy nomination for the main title theme music
1992:
Again collaborated with Burton for "Batman Returns"
1993:
Collaborated on the story and screenplay, and composed music and lyrics for Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas"; also performed the singing voice of the lead character (Jack Skellington) and two supporting roles; earned Golden Globe and Grammy nominations for Best Original Score
1995:
Oingo Boingo announced that it was disbanding
1996:
Worked with director Brian De Palma to compose music for "Mission:Impossible"
1997:
Signed multiple picture, non-exclusive agreement to write, produce and direct for Walt Disney Motion Picture Group
1997:
Received first Oscar nominations for Best Original Score for "Good Will Hunting" and "Men in Black"; earned a Grammy nomination for the latter
1998:
Met future wife Bridget Fonda while working on "A Simple Plan"
1999:
Composed the atmospheric score for Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow"
2001:
Again collaborated with Burton for "Planet of the Apes"; earned a Grammy nomination for Best Score Soundtrack
2002:
Collaborated with John Kander and Fred Ebb to compose the music for Rob Marshall's screen adaptation of "Chicago"
2003:
Composed the music for Tim Burton's "Big Fish"; received Golden Globe, Academy Award and Grammy nominations for Best Original Score
2004:
Wrote the theme music for ABC's "Desperate Housewives"
2005:
Voiced Bonejangles in Tim Burton's animated feature "Corpse Bride"; also scored the music
2005:
Composed the score for Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"; also provided the voices for the Oompa-Loompas in the musical numbers; earned a Grammy nomination for Best Song for "Wonka¿s Welcome Song"
2008:
Scored the music for Gus Van Sant's "Milk"; earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score and a Grammy nomination for Best Score Soundtrack for a film
2010:
Composed the score for Burton's "Alice In Wonderland"; earned a Grammy nomination for Best Score Soundtrack
2011:
Nominated for the 2011 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score ¿ Motion Picture ("Alice In Wonderland")
2011:
Composed music for the robot-boxing drama "Real Steel," starring Hugh Jackman
2012:
Composed original music for "Men in Black III," directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

University High School: Los Angeles , California -

Notes

"I'm the nay-sayer, the voice of doom. I see film music getting worse every year. I see more and more music factories building up now--faceless composing where composers can become extremely successful by doing nothing but imitating existing scores." --Danny Elfman quoted in LOS ANGELES TIMES, November 23, 1997

Elfman's fellow Oingo Boingo member, Steve Bartek orchestrates his scores, and music editor Bob Badami and conductor Shirley Walker have been involved with most of his projects as well. Elfman has recording and screening facilities in his home.

"My greatest criticism of film music is of my own generation: the Synclavier composers who just come up with themes and turn them over to orchestrators. It's the ultimate irony to me that I am accused of that which I detest the most. I get myself wrapped up in these scores that take so much time and energy that every time I finish one I swear I'll never do another one. On the other hand, whenever I listen to the wonderful scores written between 1940 and 1960, it reminds me, 'That's why I do it. That's what I love about it.' It's not the money and it's not the prestige--it's somehow tapping into what inspired me when I was young and watching these movies and loving film music so much." --Danny Elfman interviwed by Frank Thompson in "Settling the Score" in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, January 18, 1993

"Dolby sound was the death of the classic film score, the single worst thing that ever happened to film music, because it marked the end of film music being a major character and the beginning of sound effects being a major character." --Danny Elfman quoted in an article written by Stephen Rebello in MOVIELINE, November 1993

"The fact is I taught myself notation because I had to. It's sloppy and I often slip in and out of proper key signatures but every note that I want to hear is there. And as laughable as my scores may look to a very well-trained musician, I do work 12 hours a day, often seven days a week writing the goddamn stuff down and getting it to sound exactly like I want it to sound." --Danny Elfman interviewed by Frank Thompson in "Settling the Score" in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, January 18, 1993

"His compositions for Burton's movies are stuff that seem to navigate the Burton mindscape the way Nino Rota's do Federico Fellini's and Bernard Herrmann's do Alfred Hitchcock's." --Stephen Rebello, MOVIELINE, November 1993

"I'm trying to redefine something that's very popular at the moment. I knew that I'd catch a lot of heat from people saying, 'Where's the hit?', I'm trying to explain that's not the idea. Songs should be glued to their musical and have no life outside of it." --Elfman on his views on what a musical should be (from VILLAGE VOICE, November 3, 1993)

"All I can hope is that I have the ability to keep expanding musically, because when I tire of a certain style, I can't keep doing it. I'm not the type of professional who can just go, 'What the hell, it's a job.'" --Elfman quoted in PREMIERE, January 1991

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Caroline Thompson. Has an older brother.
companion:
Caroline Thompson. Screenwriter. Wrote "Edward Scissorhands" and "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas"; together from c. 1990.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Milton Elfman. Had twelve; all older.
father:
Milton Elfman. Teacher.
mother:
Blossom Elfman. Was married three times.
mother:
Blossom Elfman. Novelist, screenwriter. Noted for her children's books.
brother:
Richard Elfman. Filmmaker. Born on March 6, 1949; directed the "late-night cult movie", "Forbidden Zone" (1979) which featured Elfman's first feature score.
brother:
Richard Elfman. Housepainter.
nephew:
Jimmy Elfman. Actor. Married to actor Jenna Elfman.
nephew:
Jimmy Elfman. Had two; survived him.
daughter:
Lola Elfman. Born c. 1979.
daughter:
Lola Elfman. Doorman, former drummer. Abandoned family c. 1957.
daughter:
Mali Elfman. Born on September 24, 1984.
daughter:
Mali Elfman. Born c. 1989.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute