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Exclusive: Cameron Crowe on the soundtrack of “We Bought a Zoo” and why it sounds different than anything he’s done before

Exclusive: Cameron Crowe on the soundtrack of “We Bought a Zoo” and why it sounds different than anything he’s done before (photo)

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You think of Cameron Crowe movies, you think of the music in Cameron Crowe movies. John Cusack and the boombox in “Say Anything…” Stillwater singing “Tiny Dancer” on the tour bus in “Almost Famous.” Orlando Bloom’s mixtape roadtrip at the end of “Elizabethtown.” Nobody does movie music quite like Crowe. That’s why we’re wrapping up our multipart interview on his new movie “We Bought a Zoo” (you can read parts 1 and 2 here and here) with his thoughts on its soundtrack, which Crowe says is totally different than anything else he’s done as a director.

A big reason why is Jónsi, the singer and guitarist from Icelandic rock band Sigur Rós, who is serving as “We Bought a Zoo”‘s composer. Crowe said he wanted him to score the film, after listening to his music on set while he was shooting.

“We fell in love with the music of Jónsi and Sigur Rós just as an environment while we were making the movie,” Crowe explained. “And about halfway through the edit it became obvious that I had to ask if Jónsi himself would come score it. I wrote him an email and reached him in Iceland. He asked to read the script and I sent him the script and streamed him a scene and he got on a plane and came from Iceland. He wrote the theme for the movie immediately and we’ve been living in this intoxicating world of his music in the movie ever since.”

Asked whether the only music in the film would be Jónsi’s, Crowe replied “There are a few other songs, but it’s different from other stuff that I’ve done that’s felt like a mixtape or a radio station with a lot of different [music] in it. That’s kind of the way I’ve always approached it, but this is definitely Jónsi creating the overall musical character — and it is like a character, and there a few records along the way. I’ve never done it like this before and it’s really exciting.”

Searching for a point of comparison for his unusual approach, Crowe invoked the name of another director who knows a thing or two about movie music: Wes Anderson. “It’s probably like “Royal Tenenbaums”‘ relationship between records and Mark Mothersbaugh’s stuff,” Crowe said. “It’s probably a little more that that, but a similar relationship. Where Mothersbaugh created that joyful, whimsical, happy, sad exuberance — that’s Jónsi.”

No word from Crowe yet on what other artists might be contributing to the “We Bought a Zoo” soundtrack, mostly, he told me, because they haven’t asked all the artists yet (“They could say no, and that would be embarrassing,” he laughed). Plus, the already limited roster of additional musicians keeps shrinking because Jónsi keeps writing new pieces of music. “What I like, though,” Crowe added, “is it has a real strong musical feeling, as strong as anything I’ve ever done.”

So what’s next for Crowe, once this project is done? Asked whether he’d be resuming work on his Marvin Gaye biopic, Crowe instead told me about a brand new project he’s started. It came about, he said, “from auditioning and working with a bunch of actors for ‘We Bought a Zoo.’ This woman that I work with, Gail Levin, is a great casting director. She’s always finding new faces. The kids she found for ‘We Bought a Zoo’ are so exciting. We met with all these actors, and they would leave the room and it was a situation where I would turn to Gail and say ‘They’re not right for this one, but I want to write something where we can work with that person.’ That was the genesis for writing a whole new script which I’ve been working on while we were doing ‘We Bought a Zoo’ and finishing this Pearl Jam movie.”

It sounds like whatever this upcoming project is, it’s going to see Crowe return to his roots in teen-driven storytelling. It will also be his fourth movie in a little more than a year, a huge output for a director whose last film opened in 2006. “I’m trying out this prolific thing,” Crowe admitted. “The thing about being prolific? It’s a lot of work.”

“We Bought a Zoo” opens December 23. What’s your favorite Cameron Crowe soundtrack? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.