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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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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…