Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on the 'Journey of Intense Creation' Scoring 'Empire of Light' and 'Bones and All' (Exclusive) | A.frame (2023)

In the late aughts, David Fincher propositioned Trent Reznor, frontman for the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, to compose original music for his biopic about the founding of Facebook. With some convincing, Reznor agreed and enlisted his friend and longtime collaborator, Atticus Ross, to complete their first-ever film score for The Social Network, a synth-laden soundtrack as atmospheric as it was ambitious.

At the 83rd Oscars the following year, Reznor and Ross won Best Original Score, marking a groundbreaking moment for non-traditional and non-orchestral film scores and a declaration announcing the duo's arrival as film composers.

"We were just concerned about trying to figure out how to score a film," Reznor confesses. "Not being from the film world, we hadn't, not once, even imagined or considered or even thought about that it would be praised by people that know what they're doing."

"It was just such a weird experience to be there, to have done that film and to end up winning. It just seemed so insane," says Ross. "It was terrifying. That's how I remember it — being in the seat thinking, 'What if we do win? Am I going to fall over going up the stairs? And then what am I going to say? And then when it all happened, luckily I didn't fall over."

"And then the weirdest thing I hadn't thought about, is when you're up there and you look out at the audience, every single face you can see is someone famous. 'Oh, it's Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, and they're all staring at me,'" Reznor remembers. "To be honored by that was truly a pretty life-changing experience."

Reznor and Ross have come on to become one of the most prolific composing teams working in film, reteaming with Fincher on his next films, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl, in addition to diversifying their scoring portfolio. Last year, the duo earned dual Best Original Score nominations for Mank, Fincher's Golden Age of Hollywood movie, and Disney's Soul, for which they won their second Oscar with jazz musician Jon Batiste.

"After we did a few films with Dave and gained our footing a bit, we started to think about what is it that we want to get out of this?" Reznor tells A.frame from the duo's studio, sitting side-by-side and bathed in neon blue light. "We're in a really fortunate situation, because we still have our day job playing in a band" — Nine Inch Nails, which Reznor founded in 1988 and Ross would officially join in 2016 — "and we can fill up as much time as we want with that. So if we're going to work in film, now that we've gotten over the hump of we can figure out how to do, what is it that we have to say?"

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on the 'Journey of Intense Creation' Scoring 'Empire of Light' and 'Bones and All' (Exclusive) | A.frame (1)

Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor backstage after winning Best Original Score at the 2011 Oscars.

Reznor and Ross' latest film scores are for Bones and All, from director Luca Guadagnino, and Empire of Light, from writer-director Sam Mendes. (The projects mark the first collaborations between the composers and both filmmakers.) Neither score is necessarily experimental by nature — which might be the most experimental part of it all for the duo. After a decade of forging their own inimitable sound, Bones and All and Empire of Light are more traditional-sounding scores, by design, though no less carefully considered than Reznor and Ross' past work.

"Each film is very, very, very different, sonically and approach-wise, and Luca and Sam are very different personalities — both brilliant, both radically different filmmakers in terms of how they work," says Reznor. "So it's interesting to see how we can adapt the way we work, and it's been challenging.

Bones and All stars Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet in a coming-of-age love story about a couple of cannibals on a road trip across the U.S. Wanting to draw out the romanticism of the film, Guadagnino imagined an acoustic guitar-driven score inspired by the classic sounds of the American heartland. Though Reznor and Ross are perhaps not the most obvious composers to meet that brief, Guadagnino says, "They're great, great composers. I've admired their work ever since I started to hear Nine Inch Nails and then even more so when I started to see what they could do in the field of composing, so why not?"

"We really grew to enjoy the intense collaborative," Reznor says. With their work on Nine Inch Nails, all creative choices come down to the two of them. ("We can get very insular and kind of become hermits.") On a film, "We found we really enjoy going on a six-month to 18-month — sometimes longer — journey of intense creation, where we're not in control, where we're in service to."

Bones and All, Reznor explains, was "one of the most incredible transformations from what we read on the page in the script, to what we saw come back as the first edit. The execution was so beautiful and human and goosebump-inducing and brought levels of depth that we didn't read on the page. And when you talk to Luca, he is a very warm and human and open, but there's not an infinite amount of details. There's not, 'Let's talk about the scene for an hour.' It feels impulsive. It feels instinctual with him. And the rhythm that we would find, as we got into the actual scoring of the film, was, 'I love it. I love it. It's great.' And that was the notes for that scene."

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on the 'Journey of Intense Creation' Scoring 'Empire of Light' and 'Bones and All' (Exclusive) | A.frame (2)

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on the 'Journey of Intense Creation' Scoring 'Empire of Light' and 'Bones and All' (Exclusive) | A.frame (3)

Empire of Light was a radically different experience that required a radically different way of thinking about the music. The period drama centers on a seaside movie palace, the titular Empire, in 1980s England. Olivia Colman stars as Hilary, a lonely, middle-aged theater worker who finds herself brought back to life upon the arrival of a new employee, Stephen (Micheal Ward). The film marks Mendes' debut solo screenplay, which Reznor felt made the stakes that much higher.

"Sam established a rhythm of speaking very regularly on lengthy Zoom calls to get to know each other and talk about things and was incredibly open about what state the film and script was in, at that point. We started when he was still writing the script," he says. "We felt very included, and he was a very generous and open collaborator, which can also be intimidating because we're involved in the recipe of what's about to be created."

The score is largely piano-based, which Reznor explains, "presents itself as traditional, but with closer listen, has a unique curiosity to it that isn't quite exactly what you thought it was, in a very non-showy way. We weren't looking to make a score that announces, 'Hey, listen to me! Look how clever this arrangement is!'"

"The whole score," Ross says, "it lives on a razor edge."

Empire of Light, they say, was their most challenging film score. They point to an emotionally climactic scene in which Colman's character sits down in the theater to watch a film, with the scene unfolding for several minutes uninterrupted on her face ("she's acting her a** off," says Reznor). The composers needed to write a piece that swelled perfectly in sync with her internal journey.

"And it was a tricky one to get right because it could easily go one way or the other or feel too sentimental or feel too corny," Reznor elucidates. "You could overdo it in a variety of ways, and I think we wrote 15 separate arranged compositions to try to fit that. And we were watching the time tick away too because that was one of the last things that we were really into—"

"It was the very last one," Ross says.

"There was a couple times where I was sure, 'This is it! This is the one.' And it would get a, 'It's good, but...' And it got me near the breaking point, not in terms of anger, just in terms of I think that one is good. I think it's really good. But what I found was, going back and trying again, and resetting my own emotions and being able to try again not from a place of defeat or anger or frustration, it's better. It's a lot better, and it's better because Sam made it better. We wouldn't have gotten there without being pushed to that place. And it wasn't easy, but the results speak for themselves."

"It's about storytelling," Ross resolves of their work in film. "To me, Nine Inch Nails is about emotion. With storytelling in film, I think where our strength is, and this is why we take so long on films sometimes, is in trying to understand the emotional intent of what that story may be and then transfer that into music."

Bones and All and Empire of Light are both films about lost and lonely people reaching out in desperate search of connection. The films, however, could not be more different, and Reznor and Ross' music for each distills that thesis into a distinct melody. Listen to the soundtracks in tandem, and you'll hear the different notes of artists who are ever evolving their sound.

"In the last week, we spent time with Luca intensely working on his next film, Challengers." (A romantic tennis drama starring Zendaya and Josh O’Connor.) "We were at a premier with Luca and the cast for Bones," Reznor rattles off. "We just were up at Skywalker two days ago to listen to a final mix of Fincher's new film, Killer, feeling great about it." (Of their collaboration process with Fincher, they say, "He knows what he wants, but we know each other enough now that a lot of it he'll say, 'But do what you want because that's going to be the right thing.'")

They returned to Los Angeles for their first premiere of Empire of Light.

"We got to sit in a room filled with people for the first time to watch Empire," Reznor recounts. "And I see my wife starting to cry at one point. And I'm starting to tear up. I got goosebumps watching it, and I've seen it 5,000 times. And I thought, 'I feel very, very fortunate that we've been able to work with these people and be in these situations and feel like we've contributed to them in a meaningful way.' I'm very grateful to have the opportunity. We couldn't ask for more."

By John Boone

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FAQs

What has Trent Reznor scored? ›

Best Film Scores Composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross,...
  • 8/8 Patriots Day.
  • 7/8 Waves.
  • 6/8 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
  • 5/8 mid90s.
  • 4/8 Mank.
  • 3/8 Gone Girl.
  • 2/8 Soul.
  • 1/8 The Social Network.
2 Oct 2022

What did Trent Reznor do? ›

New Castle, Pennsylvania, U.S. Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. Reznor began his career in the mid-1980s as a member of synth-pop bands such as Option 30, The Innocent, and Exotic Birds. He has contributed to the albums of artists such as Marilyn Manson, whom he mentored, rapper Saul Williams and Halsey.

Is Trent Reznor his real name? ›

What nationality is Trent Reznor? ›

What does Nine Inch Nails represent? ›

Reznor chose the name "Nine Inch Nails" because it "abbreviated easily" rather than for "any literal meaning". Other rumored explanations have circulated, alleging that Reznor chose to reference Jesus' crucifixion with nine-inch spikes, or Freddy Krueger's nine-inch fingernails.

Does Trent Reznor like the cure? ›

Reznor specifically cited the band's album The Head on the Door, saying it “got me through a lot of long dark times. I felt that this Robert Smith guy really understood who I was and I loved the Cure from that point on.

What personality type is Trent Reznor? ›

Trent Reznor is an INTJ personality type.

What were Nine Inch Nails famous for? ›

Nine Inch Nails, American alternative rock act known for dark and tortured industrial rock songs. Nine Inch Nails was essentially a stage name for singer and multi-instrumentalist Trent Reznor (b. Michael Trent Reznor, May 17, 1965, Mercer, Pennsylvania, U.S.).

How much is Nine Inch Nails worth? ›

Trent Reznor Net Worth
Net Worth:$80 Million
Place of BirthMercer
GenderMale
Height5 ft 7 in (1.702 m)
ProfessionRecord producer, Singer, Songwriter, Musician, Keyboard Player, Bassist, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Film Score Composer, Artist
2 more rows

What did Trent Reznor think of black mirror? ›

Brooker added, “He thought it was all very funny. He found all of the dark comedy very entertaining. There are lots of dark concepts in the film and we just enjoyed a childish subversion of them.”

Is Trent Reznor classically trained? ›

Reznor, who is classically trained on piano and well-versed in synth, found himself drawn to guitars.

Who helped Trent Reznor get sober? ›

It was an out of body experience for Nine Inch Nails lead vocalist Trent Reznor when he was asked to tour with David Bowie in the 1990s, but he had little idea of how much their friendship would positively impact his life, a relationship which eventually helped him finally get sober.

Who was Trent Reznor influenced by? ›

Trent Reznor writes about the early inspiration and influence of Depeche Mode - nine inch nails. As part of Tony Hawk's curation of Depeche mode's facebook page, Trent writes about the early inspiration and influence Depeche Mode had on him as an artist.

What songs did Trent Reznor write with Marilyn Manson? ›

Reznor co-produced and co-wrote three songs on Marilyn Manson's second album Antichrist Superstar, including “The Reflecting God,” “Deformography,” and “Little Horn.”

What kind of car does Trent Reznor drive? ›

MIKE METTLER: What kind of car do you have? TRENT REZNOR: I have a dark green Porsche 911. I got the last air-cooled one, a '97.

What are God nails? ›

There he let build a temple, and a mighty house it was. There was a door in the side-wall and nearer to one end thereof. Within the door stood the pillars of the high-seat, and nails were therein; they were called the Gods' nails.

What do coffin nails look like? ›

Coffin nails (also known as ballerina nails) are essentially the stiletto nail, but with a square rather than pointy tip. They are long, tapered and filed flat at the tip. They are called coffin nails or ballerina nails because the shape resembles both a coffin and a ballerina's slipper.

What does 6 nails mean? ›

Answer: A 6d nail is 2 inches long. Note: The "d" means "penny." For example, a 10d nail is a 10-penny nail.

Is The Cure goth or emo? ›

The Cure are often identified with the gothic rock genre, and are viewed as one of the form's definitive bands.

Did The Cure create goth? ›

The goth movement began making waves in the early 1980s, and before that moment, no name was attached to people who looked like Smith. The Cure had existed for several years before the subculture truly got underway, and Smith is seen as the forefather to the scene.

Why did Simon leave The Cure? ›

Gallup appeared on all three LPs in the Cure's “Dark Trilogy” — 1980's Seventeen Seconds, 1981's Faith and 1982's Pornography — before mounting tensions with Smith led to his exit from the Cure in 1982.

What is Tony Stark's MBTI? ›

Personality Analysis. With all that in mind, let's dive into the detailed traits of Tony Stark's Turbulent Commander (ENTJ-T) personality.

What MBTI is Sansa Stark? ›

ENFJ – The Giver: Sansa Stark

As an ENFJ, Sansa Stark is highly concerned with other people and making sure the people she cares about (in this case, the people of the North) get what they want to remain happy.

What is daredevils MBTI? ›

Matthew Murdock is an INFJ personality type. He has strong values and seeks out meaning in all areas of his life, including romantic relationships, friendships, and work. As an INFJ, Matthew Murdock is deep and complex.

Is Nine Inch Nails considered goth? ›

Impact. In the 1990s, several acts including PJ Harvey, Marilyn Manson, Manic Street Preachers, and Nine Inch Nails included gothic characteristics in their music without being assimilated into the genre.

Is Nine Inch Nails heavy metal? ›

Not really. They're considered Industrial Metal. Their second album, Broken, was pretty metal though. But I wouldn't call it heavy metal.

What kind of nails does Cardi B get? ›

Cardi B is embracing duck nails, aka the flared nail-shape trend on beauty TikTok exploding with dimensional designs and quirky how-tos.

When did 9 inch nails do Hurt? ›

"Hurt" is a song by American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails from its second studio album, The Downward Spiral (1994), written by Trent Reznor. It was released on April 17, 1995, as a promotional single from the album. The song received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Song in 1996.

Can you be 9 to get your nails done? ›

Because there is no legal restriction on the age of a client who can receive nail enhancements, you should discuss you concerns with you employer and together draw up a release form for young clients' parents to sign. The length of the nail would be my biggest concern.

What's the craziest episode of Black Mirror? ›

In the meantime, Black Mirror has given us some incredible episodes of television, and these are the best.
  • 8/10 Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too.
  • 7/10 Bandersnatch.
  • 6/10 White Bear.
  • 5/10 15 Million Merits.
  • 4/10 USS Callister.
  • 3/10 The Entire History of You.
  • 2/10 Nosedive.
  • 1/10 San Junipero.
7 Aug 2022

What is Black Mirror trying to tell us? ›

Black Mirror can be seen to demonstrate a negative view of unending pursuit of scientific and technological advancement. The majority of episodes end unhappily. However, characters who carefully consider the risks of technology with which they engage are met with happy endings, as in "San Junipero".

Is Nine Inch Nails a one man band? ›

For a long time, it was just Trent Reznor, a studio, and a rotating roster of collaborators. However with Hesitation Marks onward, Nine Inch Nails is a 2 person band, Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Did Trent Reznor produce mechanical animals? ›

A lot of people may say this record is over the top, pretentious and theatrical, but that's what rock music is supposed to be about." Mechanical Animals also marked the first time NIN frontman Trent Reznor provided no production input.

What synths does Trent Reznor use? ›

Befitting the occasion, the artist used a Minimoog Voyager and a prototype Mother-32, Moog's newest analog synthesizer, to create the score. Over the course of its 13-year production run, the Minimoog Voyager has become one of the most iconic analog synthesizers in history.

How does Trent Reznor feel about Old Town Road? ›

Reznor is thoughtful and diplomatic about Lil Nas X and “Old Town Road” throughout. He acknowledges that the song is “undeniably hooky,” but admits that “it's been stuck in my head enough” when asked directly if he likes it.

What Trent Reznor said about Johnny Cash? ›

"Having Johnny Cash, one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time, want to cover your song, that's something that matters to me. It's not so much what other people think but the fact that this guy felt that it was worthy of interpreting.

Did Trent Reznor like Johnny Cash's cover of Hurt? ›

"I'd been friends with Rick Rubin for several years. He called me to ask how I'd feel if Johnny Cash covered Hurt. I said I'd be very flattered but was given no indication it would actually be recorded. "Hearing it was like someone kissing your girlfriend."

When did Atticus Ross start working with Trent Reznor? ›

Ross began working with Reznor on the latter's side project Tapeworm in 2002. He later worked with Reznor's band Nine Inch Nails, first as a programmer and producer in 2005, and became the only official member of the band outside of Reznor in 2016.

Where did Trent Reznor record The Downward Spiral? ›

The Downward Spiral
ReleasedMarch 8, 1994
Recorded1992–1993
StudioLe Pig, Benedict Canyon Record Plant, Los Angeles A&M, Hollywood
GenreIndustrial rock alternative rock industrial metal
19 more rows

Who influenced Marilyn Manson? ›

As its only permanent member, Manson heads the direction of the band's sound; he has been influenced by the shock rock of artists such as Arthur Brown, Alice Cooper, The Doors, Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne and Iggy Pop. His biggest influence, however, was David Bowie, whom he credited with "changing [his] life forever".

Does Slipknot like Marilyn Manson? ›

Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor has revealed that his band had a competition with Marilyn Manson to freak the other act out. The two acts toured together as part of Ozzfest in 2001, with Taylor now describing how he once drank his own vomit to gross out Manson.

Why did Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson have a falling out? ›

Manson claimed that Reznor was responsible for starting the feud in the studio, telling Howard Stern, “Trent came to me and said, 'We need to stop doing drugs. The very next day I stopped doing drugs. Then things changed and I was the nerd.” Reznor, according to Manson, didn't clean up.

Will of the People Muse sounds like? ›

Rhythmically, the song has been compared to "The Beautiful People" by Marilyn Manson and "Summertime Blues" by Eddie Cochran.

Why are Nine Inch Nails famous? ›

Nine Inch Nails saw massive success in 1989 with the song “Head Like a Hole” from their debut album, Pretty Hate Machine. The emotion and rage of Pretty Hate Machine was wrapped in a pop music package, breathing life into an emerging underground generation.

What does 9 Inch Nails stand for? ›

Reznor chose the name "Nine Inch Nails" because it "abbreviated easily" rather than for "any literal meaning". Other rumored explanations have circulated, alleging that Reznor chose to reference Jesus' crucifixion with nine-inch spikes, or Freddy Krueger's nine-inch fingernails.

Why is Nine Inch Nails so popular? ›

They Brought Industrial Rock to the Mainstream

The key was Reznor's ability to craft hauntingly catchy tunes within the framework of industrial rock. This wasn't just sound for the sake of sound, but rather a carefully arranged tapestry of forceful, hypnotic noise.

What was Nine Inch Nails greatest hit? ›

1. 'Closer' Often referred to as "Closer to God," the second single off The Downward Spiral became Nine Inch Nails' biggest hit to date and cemented Reznor's status as a rock icon.

What awards has Trent Reznor won? ›

Trent Reznor

Where did Trent Reznor record the fragile? ›

It was produced by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and English producer Alan Moulder, a longtime Reznor collaborator. It was recorded throughout 1997 to 1999 in New Orleans.

What is the biggest hit of all time? ›

According to Guinness World Records, Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" (1942) as performed by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single worldwide, with estimated sales of over 50 million copies.

Who won Best Movie Score? ›

Hans Zimmer won an Oscar for best original score on Sunday (March 27) for Dune. In so doing, he set a record. He waited longer to win his second scoring Oscar than any other composer in history. Zimmer won his first Oscar for best original score 27 years ago for The Lion King.

Who won Oscar for Best Score? ›

Academy Award for Best Music (Original Score)

Is there a difference in the Hurt Reznor and Cash sing about how? ›

The only changes to the lyrics Cash made were the removal of profanity, to reflect more on Cash's devout Christianity. It's shocking, how the absence of just a few words made for an entirely different song.

Why did Cash cover Hurt? ›

The musician was suffering from autonomic neuropathy brought on by diabetes and by the time he recorded Hurt, his health was failing. “There were times when his voice sounded broken,” said Rubin.

Who is the most record breaking artist? ›

Elvis Presley. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Elvis Presley is still the best-selling artist in music history with more than 1 billion album and song sales worldwide. He's also still breaking records from beyond the grave.

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