Shawn Levy Talks REAL STEEL Soundtrack, Landing Timbaland, and His Goal for the Film

     October 5, 2011

Director Shawn Levy Real Steel interview slice

One of the many things that really impressed me about director Shawn Levy’s Real Steel was the soundtrack.  Unlike some movies where the songs feel out of place and you’ve never heard of the artists, Levy assembled a great mix of music from Timbaland, Crystal Method, Danny Elfman, Eminem, Tom Morello, Limp Bizkit, Beastie Boys, 50 Cent, Foo Fighters and Alexi Murdoch.

So when I sat down with Levy at the press day, he told me how he put together the soundtrack and tells a great story about his first meeting with Timbaland.  In addition, he talked about his goal for Real Steel, whether or not he got notes from the studio about Hugh Jackman playing an asshole for the majority of the film, and revealed that Real Steel was the most creative control he’s ever had on any movie.  Hit the jump to watch.

Finally, if you missed Levy talking about Neighborhood Watch, what happened to his Flash movie, the status of The Hardy Men and Night at the Museum 3, as well as the status of Fantastic Voyage and Frankenstein, hit the links.

Here’s some quotes from Shawn Levy talking about how he put together the Real Steel soundtrack:

Shawn Levy on the set of REAL STEEL_2“When you make a movie you always start off with your wish list of who you would like in the movie, you never end up with them. Ever. It’s like, ‘Well I can’t get you Timbaland, but I can get you Cutie Pie,’ or some fucking emerging artist that like has a bad name, and they’re telling you is gonna be huge but never ends up being huge. On this movie, we invited these artists to the editing room, and I showed them much the same stuff that I showed you and we started getting yes’s, and we ended up with a soundtrack that is like a musical wet dream for me.”

“There’s an amazing singer/songwriter who wrote—hopefully he’s on your site and he knows what I’m talking about—he wrote a magnificent song for this kind of lonely man montage 2/3’s of the way through the movie. Gorgeous song, I went to the recording studio, we laid it down, it’s a great song. I put it in the movie and I thought, ‘The lyrics are telling me what I’m seeing,’ and if the lyrics are telling you what you can already get with your eyes, it’s too much, and we pulled the song. I called the dude and I was like, ‘Brother I remain a huge fan, but I can’t use your song. Please put it on an album or use it for a future movie of mine.’”

Hugh-Jackman-Real-Steel-image“I called up Crystal Method, I’m like, ‘Come to my editing room,’ I showed them the fight scenes and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah we got this, we got this,’ and then they were like ‘Can we see more?’ and so I showed them some of the more underdog kind of rousing emotional scenes, and they were like ‘Why are we fucking getting emotional at a fucking robot movie?’…But anyway they wrote two different songs, one is the introduction to Noisy Boy who is our kind of Japanese Bot, that’s a song called ‘Bring the Noise’ that is great…and then, this was fascinating, they wrote a piece of music for Round 1 of Zeus vs. Atom, which is the climactic fight, and it worked pretty well, as a track it worked great. But we mix it on the movie, and I’m like ‘Shit, all of Crystal Method’s sounds are in exactly the same pitch as the robot sound effects,’ so the result was you couldn’t hear it. So then what happened is Crystal Method basically did a kind of collaboration with Danny Elfman, who wrote an overlay on top of the Crystal Method track, so what’s in the movie is this weird unexpected Danny Elfman/Crystal Method duet that works exceptionally well.”

Hugh-Jackman-Real-Steel-image“I said a year and a half ago, ‘It would be a dream if that main hip-hop song could be Timbaland’ and everyone told me, ‘You’ll never get to him, he’s doing his own thing, he’s down in Florida, he doesn’t have a phone,’ all these rumors I heard. We finally got someone’s blessing to take a clip of the movie to his studio, and it was some weird meeting time like ‘We shall met at 1am in your unmarked, unadressed recording studio in Miami’ or something. We wait, he watches the clip, he goes, ‘Be at my house at 10am tomorrow I wanna watch the whole movie with my kid.’ So the next morning at 10am we bring the whole movie to his house. This was three months ago, and you have to understand for nine months people have been telling me, ‘Give up on the Timbaland thing. You’re not gonna get a Timbaland original,’ but he said come back, we showed him the whole movie with his kid, he called me up and goes, ‘I’m doing this song. I’m doin the song the kid dances to with the robot, I’m doin the end credits song, I’m doin whatever else you need me to do.’ He was so enthused having seen the movie. I think he watched it like—he liked it, he saw that his kid liked it, so he wrote this brand new song which is a tough get and pretty thrilling.”

“What ends up happening is, you always sign off on a music budget for a movie and it’s X, and you’re kind of like ‘Eh, that’s not gonna be enough,’ but it’s this game that you kind of have to play—I’m now revealing the game so I’m kind of ruining my chances on future movies—you always know that if the movie works, and if you have a good test screening and good preview, and the studio sees a certain song that you can’t afford in the movie, 7 out of 10 times they will pay for that song, and they’ll go into what’s called breakage to give you that song. So yeah the budget grew a little bit and we had a lot of flexibility with the artists.”



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