Composing The Carnage: Interview With ‘Saw’ Composer Charlie Clouser

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Kevin Greutert’s ‘Saw 3D: The Final Chapter’ One-Sheet- Courtesy of Lionsgate

SS: That’s probably the best. It’s also interesting the way you put it. The end of ‘Saw’ certainly seems to fall in line. As I’m sure some actors see films and wish they could have been a key performer, are there any films you wish you would have scored? Not that you feel like you could have done better but some you really wish you were a part of?

CC: There’s a few films that I would have loved to have had an opportunity to score, but not because I thought I could have done a better job than the composer, but because it seems like the composer had a great time working with the story.  Some of those would be films like ‘Michael Clayton’, which had one of my favorite scores by James Newton Howard, or ‘Se7en’, which had that fantastically ominous score by Howard Shore, or ‘The International’, which had a great score by Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer.  All of those are a little more subtle than a typical ‘SAW’ film; they’re not full of whiz-bang musical effects or jump scares, but they all have a sense of dread and sort of a “slow boil” that works so well.  I don’t think I could have done as good a job as any of those guys, but I like the films so much that it would certainly have been fun to try.

SS: Exactly, and that’s the really important part. Expanding on that question, what are some of your favorite composers?

CC: I really like a lot of the stuff by Cliff Martinez, Reinhold Heil, and of course the scores that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have done, but if I had to pick one I’d say Harry Gregson-Williams has never done a score that I didn’t like.  He seems to get a really nice mix of orchestral stuff and state-of-the-art programming and synth work, and it always feels right and never seems to step on the story or go too far.  Among the greats of the old school, Lalo Schifrin and Jerry Goldsmith are at the top of my list, and if I include composers outside of the film world I’d have to list Krzysztof Penderecki and Gyorgy Ligeti as favorites because of the terrifying nature of many of their works.

SS: If you could work with any director, either living or dead, which filmmaker would you chose? 

I don’t know that I’d have what it takes, but for a living director I’d have to choose David Fincher, and for dead I’d go with Kubrick.  Both of them have made films that, for me, are as close to perfect as a film can be, and both have a great sense of creating dread and a sense of wonder in a wide range of story situations.  Two of my favorites for sure.

SS: I’m a huge fan of both as well, especially David Fincher. My second favorite filmmaker of all-time. So going forward, are there any projects you have in the pipeline? Anything we could get the word out about?

CC: Well, we’re just gearing up for the next installment in the ‘SAW ‘franchise, tentatively titled ‘SAW: Legacy’ and set for release in October of 2017. With the Spierig brothers on board to direct, I think this will be a great opportunity to re-think our approach and give the score an approach that is more stark, bold, and rugged, and less murky and washy than some of the previous films, so I’m excited to get back on that horse.

The jury is still out on whether or not we’ll do a third season of the FOX television series “Wayward Pines”, which I’ve scored for the past two seasons, but if that one comes back I’ll be excited to amp it up to the next level.  That series was a lot of fun to do, and over the course of twenty hour-long episodes my score changed quite a bit as the series grew more action packed, so if we come back for a third season I’ll be on board for sure.


Well, would you look at that. I’ll be honest, I never knew half of this about Saw composer Charlie Clouser. Like, for one, I had no idea he played keyboard for “Nine Inch Nails”.  Or the fact that Clouser seemingly loves the film work of David Fincher as much as I do. Also, finding out about the process of James Wan is truly invaluable. To me, that’s all some really cool info. Maybe it’s just me. Then again, it’s not right….. is it? I think at the very least,  the jury is still out.

If you enjoyed this interview, don’t go anywhere. 1428 is set to bring you part IV of out interview with Friday the 13th: The Game’s Ronnie Hobbs and part III of our interview with acting mainstay Xander Berkeley. And that’s just the upcoming interviews. We have much more coming at you Fright Fans.

Next: Actor Spotlight: Interview With Xander Berkeley Part II

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