Exclusive: Composer Johann Johannsson on the Music of Blade Runner 2049

– by Edward Douglas
Image via Alcon Entertainment

Image via Alcon Entertainment

With two Oscar nominations under his belt, Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson has become one of the go-to film scorers, mainly due to his work with Denis Villeneuve on Prisoners and Sicario, the latter being one of his Oscar-nominated scores.

He’s likely to get a third nomination for his work on Villeneuve’s upcoming sci-fi film Arrival (out November 11), and the two of them are already working on their fourth collaboration, Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, a sequel to the Ridley Scott sci-fi classic.

The original Blade Runner had an iconic score by electronic musician Vangelis, so we were curious to the approach Jóhannsson would be taking and when LRM spoke to the composer recently, we asked him.

“It’s very early on with Blade Runner,” he responded. “They’re still filming. I’m sending them stuff, and we’re still looking for the sound.  It’s a slow process. It’s very early to talk, really, in any specific terms about Blade Runner, but obviously it’s a sequel to a very iconic, celebrated film that is very well loved. It’s a film that’s one of my “favorites, to be honest. It’s one of my all-time favorite films, so it’s a huge challenge to take on. It feels like a responsibility in many ways, like a big responsibility to take on a project like this.”

When asked about how his score might relate to the music composed by Tangelos in the original film, this is what he told us:

“It has to be music that exists in the world of Blade Runner, but it’s Blade Runner thirty years later. It’s not a remake, it’s a sequel, so a lot of time has passed and things have changed. I think that will be reflected in all elements of the score and the film. Obviously, Vangelis’ music played a huge part in creating that world, and Vangelis’ score to Blade Runner is one of my all-time favorites. It was a huge part of why that film is so strong, so yes, it’s something that I’m very aware of, but as I said, this is a sequel, not a remake, so we’re doing something that exists in the world but is new as well.”

Johannsson is also doing the music for Darren Aronofsky’s next movie Mother!, tarring Jennifer Lawrence, and that might be an equally tough act to follow, since Aronofsky's scores by Clint Mansell are equally treasured by fans of film scoring.

“I’ve started to work on that as well," he told us. "They finished shooting, and I’m working on the music, and we’re at a similar stage, just finding the sound and the right approach.”

Look for the rest of LRM’s interview with Johannsson sometime soon. Arrival opens Friday, November 11.

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