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Bruce Broughton Revists Steven Spielberg's Young Sherlock Holmes

Profile Of Emmy Winning And Oscar Nominated Composer Bruce Broughton of Steven Spielberg's production of "Young Sherlock Holmes" Directed By Barry Levinson
Profile Of Emmy Winning And Oscar Nominated Composer Bruce Broughton of Steven Spielberg's production of "Young Sherlock Holmes" Directed By Barry Levinson
Courtesy of Getty Images

What could I say about Bruce Broughton? As side from writing some of the most memorable film music that his ardent fans remember dearly such as "Young Sherlock Holmes", "Silverado", "Tombstone" and "The Boy Who Could Fly" to go along with 23 Emmy Award Nominations and 10 Emmy Award Winning scores that include "Warm Springs", "Glory And Honor", "O Pioneers!", "Eloise At The Plaza", and "Eloise At Christmastime" to name a few go along with a well deserved Academy Award nomination for "Silverado." Bruce has definitely been one of the most versitile composers in Hollywood over the last four decades lending his exceptional talents to both television and film.

This interview which I'm very proud to have written, we touch upon a score that thrilled fans since the films' release in December of 1985 and has finally been unleashed from its' captive musical vaults. Of course, I'm talking about the Steven Spielberg produced "Young Sherlock Holmes" which is a score that is very dear to fans of the film as well as Bruce's soundtrack fans. A wonderful and envigorating body of work that has aged well like a great cup of wine and never gets old. With the film celebrating its 30th Anniversary next year (in which hope to see a Special Edition Blu-Ray of and I emphasize hope here!), I personally thought it was the right time that we should be able to talk about the score and look back on it even further now that Intrada Records has released it as part of their wonderful catalog of brilliant titles which includes alot of Bruce's excellent work.

For this very special interview, Bruce candidly shares with me his personal thoughts on YSH, we revisit his other wonderful scores such as "Silverado", "Tombstone" and "The Boy Who Could Fly" as well as his other lesser known works that deserve attention. This is an interview that I'm truly proud of and I cannot say enough to thank Bruce for making it happen. So please sit back and enjoy!

Bruce can you please tell the readers about what made you become interested in music.

BB: I was born into a musical family. My father’s father was a composer; an uncle was a songwriter; an aunt was a pianist. My other grandparents could all play an instrument. One grandmother was a trained singer. In my immediate family, my parents could both play instruments, sight-read and sing. My brother was a studio trombone player and composer. So for me it wasn’t too much of a stretch to go into music as a profession.

This year of course has been a very important one for you. First, have your very special release of one of your most in demand soundtrack releases in “Young Sherlock Holmes”. How did you get involved with the film?

BB: I think I got the film because of “Silverado,” which I had just finished.

Your score is still an amazing work and better than most scores that are being released to today. Can you tell us about the approach you took in writing the score for the film?

BB: As contrasted to “Silverado,” which is mostly a story about good guys vs. bad guys, “Young Sherlock Holmes” is about a very interesting kid who lives in his head. He’s always thinking and he’s always deducing, always working things out mentally. So the music for this movie is very intricate and largely reflects his inner life. The story itself has many different threads and many different characters, so there are many themes and motives in this movie, some of which are used simultaneously.

Your iconic theme for the film is one just simply unforgettable. How did you come up with it?

BB: I’m not sure which theme you’re referring to, since there are two main themes. But if you’re talking about the main title theme – the one with the piccolo and the rattling noise at the start – I think of that as the “investigating theme.” It has a motor rhythm that accompanies it, to show the relentless nature of Holmes’ thinking. That theme comes back in the final sword fight with big brass statements, showing all that the investigating led to. The other theme is a sort of marching theme and is the one associated with Holmes himself. It plays the adventure.

What are your favorite memories about the recording sessions for the film?

BB: It was one of the best sessions I ever had; a lot of fun. Everyone liked the score. The company even gave me an extra week to stay in London, just because they were so happy with the score. I also caught a first glimpse of my wife-to-be who was playing in the violin section.

All told, how much music did you record for the film?

BB: Around 85 minutes. It’s about ten minutes longer than “Silverado.”

Intrada Records, with who you’ve had a great personal relationship for the last couple of decades has released the soundtrack after such high demand. Are you surprised at how beloved this soundtrack is after all this time at this point in your life?

BB: I never know why anyone likes anything, so I’m not as surprised as I am grateful. The movie isn’t that well known, but the fans still really like the score.

How did you assemble this new album?

BB: Although I had assembled the first album – the one on vinyl, Douglass Fake did most of the assembly for the CD and he laid it out pretty much in movie order. The biggest difference is that in the movie some of the pieces continue playing without a break, whereas on the album, the cues have been separated to make for a better listening experience.

What was it like working with Doug Fake on the project?

BB: Working with Doug is always a pleasure. He’s enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the music, very easy to work with and has very good ideas of how to put things together. After listening to an assembly he’s made, I usually have very few comments other than “I like it.” And frankly, I’m grateful to him and Intrada for putting out so much of my music. It seems like a never-ending process!

What would you say to new soundtrack collectors discovering your music for the first time and in particular this score?

BB: “Hope you enjoy it.”

Looking back 30 years, how do you feel about the film now in your own words and the whole experience of working on it.

BB: It was simply a great job, and I’m happy it was one of the first films I did, since the enthusiasm is in the score. I have absolutely no bad memories of it. It’s also a very well made film.

Also and rather ironically, “Silverado” will also be celebrating its 30th Anniversary come next year alongside “Young Sherlock Holmes” in which you earned your first Academy Award Nomination for it. How did you get involved with the film?

BB: My agent at the time, Mike Gorfaine, set up a meeting with Larry Kasdan. He said to me, “It’s a long shot, but what the hell?” Turned out okay.

How did you come up with that great rousing theme for the score? It’s a beautiful piece of work.

BB: Larry Kasdan was making a western for people who had never seen westerns before, so it was based on the classical templates of the great westerns from years before. Westerns were, by the time “Silverado” was made, a tired and burned-out genre and no one was making them any longer. Larry asked for a big, Hollywood-sounding western score. I thought of Jerome Moross, who had written “The Big Country,” and of course, after that, “The Magnificent Seven.” So that was the basic style. The tune begins with a series of fifths, a powerful and very open interval that is identified, thanks to Aaron Copland, with the American west. The energy of the theme comes from the movie.

Was there at one point with this score, that you personally said to yourself. Let’s go bigger and bigger. Because as the film went along after a somewhat slow start, things really pick up both visually and musically. Was that Kasdan’s intention?

BB: No. That’s just the way I saw the movie.

What was it like working with Director Lawrence Kasdan on the film?

BB: It was very enjoyable. We got along very well. I liked the script and went to the set near Santa Fe a couple of times when he was shooting. I got an idea of what he was trying to do. He was always very clear. Fortunately, he also liked the music.

You also worked on another memorable Western that in someways really outshines “Silverado” and that’s “Tombstone”, which is one of my favorite Westerns. How did you come on board the film?

BB: Well, I suppose that like “Young Sherlock Holmes,” I got it because of “Silverado.” Jerry Goldsmith was supposed to do the movie, but his schedule couldn’t accommodate it. So I did it instead. We talked a lot during the movie. I wasn’t asking for advice, but he was very encouraging all the same. He knew the production team and the director well and I found that very helpful.

Was it difficult for you to come in at the very last minute to write the score? Because you did such a brilliant job on it.

BB: I had spent many years working in television, sometimes doing one or two series simultaneously. When working in TV, there’s not a lot of time to think about what you’re doing, which was very good training for everything that came afterwards. “Tombstone,” however, was very clear as to what it was and what it needed from me. It was well directed, well acted and very well edited. It was like a bottomless pit of dark, melodramatic emotion.

After you viewed the film, did you have an idea of what kind of a score the film needed or did you get some input from Director George Cosmatos?

BB: They were struggling to finish it in time, and were working day and night on the editing, so when I first saw the movie, I only saw the first half. They had temped it with the score to “Silverado.” “Silverado” is a very positive, feel-good score in which the good guys are really good guys. But in “Tombstone,” everybody’s a bad guy, even the good guys. So the music from “Silverado” made “Tombstone” look awful. It was simply a bad match. Once I got rid of the temp track and just started making my way through the movie, I realized it had a lot to offer. George’s way of inspiring you was to immediately question or criticize anything you did. I suppose it was European old school. But he ended up liking the score a lot.

What do you remember about the recording the score after all these years?

BB: It was a very pleasant experience. Andy Vajna, the executive producer, was at the session, but George wasn’t. Everything went very smoothly. We recorded it in London.

The score was the complete opposite of “Silverado” in both tone and musical structure. If you had to choose between the two as your personal favorite to have written, which one would it be and why? Also, which film is your personal favorite of the two?

BB: I can’t really say I prefer one over the other. As sheer entertainment, however, I like watching “Tombstone.” It’s a great popcorn movie, with many over-the-top performances (and cues). But I like “Silverado” for how smart it is and for how elegantly it’s put together. Of the two scores, I think “Silverado” is easier to listen to as music. But there are people who prefer “Tombstone” because it’s so dark and powerful.

I definitely have to touch upon another popular score of yours which got a well deserved reissue not too long ago and that is “The Boy Who Could Fly”, a film that has grown in good reputation over the years. How did you get involved with the film?

BB: It was the movie I did directly after “Young Sherlock Holmes.” I think that by this time, I had established myself as a movie guy, and that’s probably how and why I got the movie.

Your score is magical and special in everyway and it just made the film so much better. Did Nick Castle give you the leeway to write what you did?

BB: The main thing I remember about Nick was that he was probably the nicest guy in the world. (Still is, I’m sure.) One of his best friends is a composer, but he never let that get in the way when we were working together. He wrote the movie as well as directed it, and I know that the story was special to him. I think it turned out well and my memories of the time are all good.

How do you feel about the film after all of these years and the score?

BB: I haven’t seen the movie for a very long time. Occasionally, I’ve heard bits of the score, but I haven’t sat down to listen to the whole thing for quite a while. But whenever I hear it, I think it sounds very good. The orchestra performance and Armin Steiner’s recording of it is magnificent. I wanted the score to have a light feeling. The boy, after all, flies. Armin managed to get the orchestra’s lightness in his recording, keeping the richness while contributing a real glow to the sound. I like the tune, the way it keeps rising.

Going back to your soundtrack releases like “Silverado”, “The Boy Who Could Fly”, “Tombstone”, “Harry And The Hendersons”, “Baby’s Day Out”, “Lost In Space” and “Young Sherlock Holmes” are you proud that soundtrack collectors are still excited and fond of these scores after all of this time?

BB: Honestly, other than one or two scores, I’m really not aware of what soundtrack collectors like of mine. I’m just happy the music is still out and available.

Is there a score in your career that you’re personally fond of that doesn’t quite get the recognition it deserves? I personally have a few such as “For Love Or Money”, “The Ice Pirates” and “So I Married An Axe Murderer” which I feel are some wonderful scores that deserve that title.

BB: Mostly, the scores people know best are from films that did well. I would say that there are only a couple of scores I’m not nuts about, but even those have some interesting things in them. But what a composer likes of his/her own work is so subjective, it’s hardly worth talking about.

I wanted to go back and touch on “Baby’s Day Out” a little bit. You replaced Jerry Goldsmith on the film which was the second film in a row that you had to which is quite interesting. How did you feel taking on the film?

BB: Well, first of all, I didn’t replace Jerry. Like “Tombstone,” he had a scheduling problem with this movie, so I was next in line. A few years before, I was supposed to do “Home Alone” for John Hughes, but I had a scheduling problem with “The Rescuers Down Under,” and had to turn it down. So I was very happy to have the opportunity to work with John again and I got to meet a great guy Patrick Read Johnson, who directed the movie. Aside from having the most appealing and cute little baby in the world, I thought it was a very funny movie (I still do). I laughed my way through the writing of it. John left the moviemaking decisions to the director, and Patrick was pretty specific about what he wanted. I like the score. It’s probably one of my favorites, but I really like the movie. It’s very silly, but it still makes me laugh.

The film is almost in a way a silent film in which your music largely dominates with very few scenes of dialog and the point of view is just this adorable baby who in the “Home Alone” style of action is eluding these three bumbling kidnappers throughout the film. Did you feel you had to write such an expansive score for that particular reason?

BB: No. Patrick had temped it with a fair amount of classical music, so I knew I could write up in terms of quality. We had a huge music budget and I had a large orchestra, along with a choir. We had big forces, so I suppose the score reflects that. John Hughes somehow managed to get enough money into the scoring budget to do a proper job with the score. I had a similar experience with his “Miracle on 34th Street.”

Personally speaking, I love the score a lot and it’s one of my favorites. Will we ever see it released?

BB: Maybe. We’ve talked about it.

You had a little bit of controversy earlier this year during the Oscar race in which a song that you co-wrote was nominated and disqualified unjustifiably. Please talk about that in your own words and does it still bother you as both a composer and a member of the guild?

BB: I can’t say anything nice about the experience, and I can’t be pleasantly objective. I didn’t break any Oscar rules; that’s simple fact, and what I was accused of doing was laughable by the standards of what the studios do every year with abandon in an extraordinarily egregious fashion. For someone who had been a governor for 18 years, I feel that I was treated poorly by the Academy, and was denominated by what was essentially a kangaroo court. I think the song might have been able to win, however. It was polling very, very well, and I know that got the studios’ attention. The experience certainly devalued the Oscar, as well as the Academy, for me.

If there was one or more scores of your own work that you personally would love to see a release, which one (or ones) would they be and why?

BB: The Disney theme park scores, because there’s a lot of interesting and different music in them, and perhaps a few of the TV movies like “Warm Springs” or “Night Ride Home.”

What was the hardest film you’ve had to score?

BB: They’re all hard, believe me.

What is your favorite film score that had an influence in you wanting to become a composer?

BB: I never wanted to become a composer when I was a kid, and the decisions that influenced me had little or nothing to do with scoring movies. Growing up, I paid absolutely no attention to scores; I only watched the films. The first film composer I think I was aware of was probably Alex North and after that, Jerry Goldsmith. I thought that Alex was seven feet tall, because his scores were so huge. I was surprised to find out, when I first saw him, that he was just a little guy. But he could write!

What is your favorite film that you have scored in your career to date?

BB: I really don’t have any favorites.

Please tell the readers about your latest upcoming projects you have.

BB: If there are any film projects on the horizon, I don’t know what they are. But, then, I’ve never known what I was doing too far ahead of myself. At the moment, I’m writing a piece for four harps for the Royal College of Music and after that I have a cello concerto to compose for a performance in March here in LA. I’m concentrating on concert music at the present, and I enjoy it a lot.

A "truly" very special thanks to Bruce for being so generous with his time to do this interview with me. All I can say is wow. You are true gentleman and truly the best. I cannot thank you enough!

Intrada's marvellous "Young Sherlock Holmes" soundtrack is available to order from Intrada Records @ and Screen Archives Entertainment @

Also, available are the great soundtracks to "Silverado" and "Tombstone" which are also available from Intrada Records along with their latest releases of Bruce' scores for "The Rescue" and "So I Married An Axe Murderer" @

Please feel free to visit Bruce Broughton's official website @ for updates on his latest projects and releases along with sound samples of his work.

Here is Bruce Broughton Biography:

"One of the most versatile composers working today, Bruce Broughton writes in every medium, from theatrical releases and TV feature films to the concert stage and computer games.

His first major film score, for the Lawrence Kasdan western Silverado, brought him an Oscar nomination. His very next project, a classically styled score for Barry Levinson's Young Sherlock Holmes, earned a Grammy nomination for the soundtrack album.

With over 20 Emmy nominations, Broughton has received a record 10, most recently for HBO's Warm Springs. He's also won Emmys for Eloise at Christmastime; Eloise at The Plaza; Glory & Honor; O Pioneers!; Tiny Toon Adventures Theme Song; The First Olympics, Athens 1896, Part I; Dallas: Ewing Blues; Dallas: The Letter; and Buck Rogers: The Satyr.

Major motion picture credits include Lost in Space; Tombstone; Miracle on 34th Street; Carried Away; Baby's Day Out; The Presidio; Narrow Margin; Harry and The Hendersons; Krippendorf's Tribe; Honey, I Blew Up The Kid; The Boy Who Could Fly; the Disney animated features, The Rescuers Down Under and Bambi II, and the two Homeward Bound adventures. He conducted and supervised the recording of Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue" for Fantasia 2000.

Numerous TV credits include the main titles for JAG, Tiny Toon Adventures, and Dinosaurs, as well as scores for Amazing Stories, Quincy, and How The West Was Won. Movies for television include Lucy, Bobbie's Girl, and O Pioneers!; and the miniseries Roughing It, The Blue and the Gray, and the Emmy-nominated True Women.

His score for Heart Of Darkness was the first orchestral score composed for a video game.

An accomplished composer of concert music, Broughton has conducted and recorded numerous original works, including "Mixed Elements," commissioned by and premiered at the Sunflower Music Festival, "Modular Music," composed for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra; "The Magic Horn," commissioned jointly by the Chicago, Seattle and National Symphonies for the Magic Circle Mime Company; "Excursions," commissioned and premiered by The United States Air Force Band in Washington, D.C.; "Fanfares, Marches, Hymns and Finale," commissioned by The Bay Brass; "English Music" for Horn and Strings; "And on the Sixth Day" for oboe and orchestra; "Tyvek Wood," commissioned by the Debussy Trio; a piccolo concerto; a tuba concerto; several solo works for winds; numerous chamber works, and the list goes on.

As a conductor, his recordings of Miklós Rózsa's Ivanhoe and Julius Caesar for Intrada records, performed by the Sinfonia of London shortly before the composer's death, have received rave reviews, as has his recording of Bernard Herrmann's riveting score for Jason and the Argonauts.

Broughton is a board member of ASCAP, a governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a former governor of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and past president of The Society of Composers and Lyricists. He has taught film composition in the Advanced Film Music Studies program at USC and is a frequent lecturer at UCLA."

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