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Thomas Newman Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (23) | Personal Quotes (14)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 20 October 1955Los Angeles, California, USA
Birth NameThomas Montgomery Newman
Nickname Tommy
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Thomas Newman is an American film score composer. He was born in Los Angeles. His father was notable film score composer Alfred Newman (1900-1970). The Newman family is of Russian-Jewish descent, and includes several other well-known musicians. Thomas' mother Martha Louis Montgomery (1920-2005) wanted her sons to have a musical education. Thomas attended regular lessons in violin as a child. An older Thomas received his musical education while attending the University of Southern California and Yale University. Thomas Newman graduated as Bachelor of Arts in 1977, and a Master of Music in 1978.

Thomas originally composed music for theatrical productions in Broadway, working with his mentor Stephen Sondheim. His uncle Lionel Newman asked him to compose music for the television series "The Paper Chase" (1978-1979, 1986), which was Thomas' first credit in a television production.

In the 1980s, Thomas first worked in film. Composer John Williams, a close family friend, hired Thomas to work in the music department for space opera film "Return of the Jedi" (1983). Thomas' main work in the film was orchestrating the music in a scene where character Darth Vader dies. Afterwards, Thomas was approached by film producer Scott Rudin and hired to work as a film score composer in his own right. His first work in the field was the film score of romantic drama "Reckless" (1984).

While he worked regularly as a film score composer during the 1980s, Thomas reportedly felt he had to retrain himself for a hard and demanding job. It reportedly took him 8 years to not feel fraudulent in his efforts. In 1994, Thomas received his first Academy Award nominations, for the film scores of "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994) and "Little Women" (1994). He lost the Award to rival composer Hans Zimmer, who had been nominated for the film score of the animated film "The Lion King" (1994).

Newman was an established and increasingly famous composer in the 1990s. He received further Academy Award nominations, although he never actually won. Among his more notable works was the film score of the drama film "American Beauty" (1999), which earned Thomas both a Grammy and a BAFTA award. Newman had a good working relationship with the film's director Sam Mendes. Mendes has kept hiring Thomas as the composer for most of his films. The main exception being the comedy-drama film "Away We Go" (2009), which did not have a film score.

In the 2000s, Thomas continued working in high-profile films, such as "Road to Perdition" (2002), "Finding Nemo" (2003), and "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events". By 2006, he had been nominated eight times for an Academy Award, while never winning it. He started joking about his lack of victories in public.

In 2008, Thomas was nominated for two Academy Awards, for both the film score and an original song for the animated film "WALL-E" (2008). He won neither, though the hit song "Down to Earth" earned him a Grammy Award. He continues to work regularly in the 2010s. Among his more acclaimed works were the film scores for spy film "Skyfall" (2012) and period drama "Saving Mr. Banks" (2013). He has continued being nominated for Academy Awards. As of 2017, he has been nominated 14 times for the Academy Award. He is the most nominated living composer to have never actually won an Academy Award. He has won a total of 5 Grammy awards.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Dimos I Ntikoudis

Spouse (1)

Ann Marie Zirbes (? - present) (3 children)

Trade Mark (2)

Tuned percussion (e.g. marimba, chimes) often plays a part in his scores, figuring especially prominently in American Beauty (1999).
Almost always plays piano on his own scores, typically during slow, moody passages.

Trivia (23)

Son of composer Alfred Newman; nephew of Lionel Newman and Emil Newman; cousin of Randy Newman; brother of composer David Newman, Maria Newman; cousin of composer Joey Newman.
Graduated from Yale University with a masters in music composition Keyboard player for "The Innocents" rock band
Has 3 children - Evan, Julia & Jack.
During the 2000 Summer Olympics, parts of his scores to Erin Brockovich (2000), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), and How to Make an American Quilt (1995) (and possibly others) were played on NBC during short biographies of certain athletes.
As with the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, pieces from Newman's scores were used amidst biographies of Olympians such as Leann Parsley during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.
Part of his score to The War (1994) was used in the trailers to both American Beauty (1999) and Life as a House (2001).
Prior to scoring Reckless (1984), Newman wrote music for off-Broadway productions, theater, and bands "The Innocents" and "Tokyo 77".
Lives in the house in which he grew up (designed by Lloyd Wright, the son of Frank Lloyd Wright), and writes in the same home studio used by his father Alfred Newman.
Part of his score to Unstrung Heroes (1995) was used in the trailer for Adaptation. (2002).
Parts of his scores to both American Beauty (1999) and Pay It Forward (2000) were used in the trailer for About Schmidt (2002).
Parts of his score to The Shawshank Redemption (1994) were used in the trailer for Brokeback Mountain (2005), and All the King's Men (2006).
During Tina Turner's video biography at the 2005 Kennedy Center Honors, part of Oprah Winfrey''s narration was accompanied by a portion of Newman's score to Road to Perdition (2002).
Part of his score to Jarhead (2005) was used in the trailer for The Last King of Scotland (2006).
Has scored at least one Oscar-nominated film every year since 1994: 1994: The Shawshank Redemption (1994) (Nominee: Best Pic, etc.), Little Women (1994) (Nominee: Best Score, etc.) 1995: Unstrung Heroes (1995) (Nominee: Best Score) 1996: The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996) (Nominee: Best Director, etc.) 1997: Oscar and Lucinda (1997) (Nominee: Best Costume Design) 1998: The Horse Whisperer (1998) (Nominee: Best Song) 1999: American Beauty (1999) (Winner: Best Pic, etc.), The Green Mile (1999) (Nominee: Best Pic, etc.) 2000: Erin Brockovich (2000) (Nominee: Best Actress, etc.) 2001: In the Bedroom (2001) (Nominee: Best Pic, etc.) 2002: Road to Perdition (2002) (Nominee: Best Score, etc.) 2003: Finding Nemo (2003) (Winner: Best Animated Feature, etc.) 2004: A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) (Nominee: Best Makeup, etc.) 2005: Cinderella Man (2005) (Nominee: Best Supporting Actor, etc.) 2006: The Good German (2006) (Nominee: Best Score), Little Children (2006) (Nominee: Best Actress, etc.).
Scored 2/5 of the Best Picture nominees in 1999: American Beauty (1999) and The Green Mile (1999).
Part of his score to Angels in America (2003) was used in the trailer for Love in the Time of Cholera (2007).
Part of his score for Angels in America (2003) was used in the trailer for Milk (2008).
During the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, parts of his score to Road to Perdition (2002) was used during a reflective piece on the life of Nodar Kumaritashvili, a Georgian luger killed during a training session hours before the Olympic games began.
Stepson of veteran film composer Robert O. Ragland.
Was nominated for Film Composer of the Year in 2008 by the International Film Music Critics Association.
His scores for American Beauty (1999) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994) were nominated for AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores. Neither made the list.
The well known marimba part which begins and plays throughout American Beauty (1999) was actually written by the marimba player, who was just playing around during a preliminary recording session.
Brother of Tim Newman.

Personal Quotes (14)

On his inspiration for his American Beauty (1999) score: "Sam [Mendes] wanted things that hammered and thwacked a bit. He was interested in percussion and mallet instruments, so I started working on various ideas that involved xylophones and marimbas."
I hate the notion that electronics are a cheesy way of doing things and that orchestra is the only 'true' approach to scoring. But you can understand those critics, because electronics allow you to make easy choices. Anyone can do it. But while synthesizers are things you hide behind sounds, they can also be put in places you'd never expect. I've always wanted these boundaries to be amorphous.
The great thing about doing movie music is that you find out what you're capable of. You may think you're incapable of producing a certain rhythm, but it's your job to solve that problem. If you open your mind, an idea will lead you to the next one.
I think I like smaller [scores] better, because I find more interesting places that the music can go. When you're working with a 90-piece symphony, your interaction with the players is much different. You're standing on a podium and talking to a large number of musicians. So the notion of nuance becomes a group effort and that's a difficult thing to get. I keep thinking of ways to communicate better, to scale down the orchestra's size so it will fit into my ambient palette instead of lying on top of it.
I feel like I know how to write in a similar style to my dad, but I prefer a score like 'Unstrung Heroes' just because it gives me more of a unique voice. If I were to do a movie about space, I bet just by virtue of musical and dramatic expectations, I would have less of a chance to be original. Music can only follow the movie that it's in. Robert Altman's 'The Player' allowed me a high sense of irony. Other movies aren't so smart and want to go towards the teary middle ground. And if you're being honest to the task you kind of have to follow it there, even though it may not be your taste. You have to make it more of what it is.
I remember a teacher once asked me, what makes music sad? What a brilliant question. His answer was, it takes on the physical qualities of something sad. Meaning if it's sad, a melody will move in step-wise manner. It will tend to be slower as you are when you're sad; it takes on the physical characteristics of an emotional state. Something in the music rings and carries you back to a memory you have that elicits a feeling. I guess what's wonderful about music is that it's utterly abstract and yet has a great kind of sinuous, subjective emotional reaction. I like the idea that music can be dimensional, that it's not necessarily playing what's there.
Response to inquiry about working appropriately so that the composer will produce a score in keeping what the idea in the film director's mind: "I'm more prone to pain avoids... I'd rather be rejected in the workroom than on the podium. There's a moment where the director squares off with the music."
Regarding hearing a remix of his score to American Beauty (1999): "I was flattered and horrified. We don't own our own music, it's typically owned by the companies that hire you."
Bernard Herrmann is my big favorite [score composer]. He created such a strong presence. And having been down that road, I admire his courage. I admire the fact that he had something to say and he took the bull by the horns and said it no matter what. And I like a lot of Jerry Goldsmith's stuff. I thought the score to Chinatown was an exquisite piece of Hollywood writing. And John Williams.
No, I've failed seven times - this will be my eighth. (In answer to the statement that he had failed to win an Oscar eight times, just prior to the 2007 Academy Awards ceremony)
Composing movie music can really only be mastered through experience and much failure on a pragmatic level. When you write a great piece and your director hates it, what now? You just have to try something else. Or if your director says, 'This scene feels dry and empty without music, but I'm hard-pressed to know what that music should sound like,' that's when you decide: 'Lets slather a lot of musical ideas against the image and see what happens.'
My approach is to deepen the action through subtext as opposed to commenting on the drama, which is what often happens with bad movie music. Audiences tend to resent that. I try to be passive enough as a composer to where I'll realize: 'Oh, I'm stepping all over the actors here.'
I flew to England to see the rough cut of Revolutionary Road (2008). I was quite moved. As a married man, it's kind of a disturbing to see a couple try so hard to work things out and fail so miserably. How do you suggest hope and hopelessness at the same time? You start thinking along the lines of the lift of a phrase followed by the droop of a phrase.
About 8 nominations and 0 wins at the Oscars: Losing makes you strong. I like being the underdog.

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