'Batman's Theme Was Composed On A Plane (While Passengers Freaked)
This tale - as told by the award-winning composer Danny Elfman himself - sounds like a mashup of a Twilight Zone episode and pretty much any movie featuring a musician on a plane. It also explains the presence of the Vertigo motif in Elfman’s score for Tim Burton’s Batman because, well, airplanes. You see, Elfman flew to London to visit the Batman set and get some needed inspiration to compose the score. And did he ever get it because on his flight back to L.A. the juices of creativity hit hard, and he simply had to compose the theme of the movie right then and there. As he put it:
“On the way home, the thing f**king hits me. And it was like, what do I do? I’m on a 747. How do I do this? I am going to forget this all. I’m going to land and they’re going to play some f**king Beatles song, and I’m going to forget everything.”
Now, trying to figure out a piece of music on a plane isn’t easy because people kind of frown upon a passenger periodically busting out a melody like some character on Glee. Luckily, Elfman had his recorder on him, and planes are known to come with bathrooms. He’d get up, go and hum a riff or two in the loo, and return to his seat only to repeat the process after 10 minutes or so.
Of course, after doing this half a dozen times, it’s understandable that people would start wondering whether this guy was shitting himself senseless thanks to some questionable London cuisine or, more likely at the time, doing so much blow that the bathroom could be deemed a health hazard. Whether they believed his story probably doesn’t matter much, as we’re sure a couple of passengers were just really relieved when the plane finally landed so they could get away from Funny Bathroom Man and also immediately tell other people about it because this was before the internet
As great as this story is, it’s kind of sad that by the time his score hit the screen, Elfman wasn’t too happy with how the music was transferred to the film. According to him, the dubbing was wonky and sounded completely off. Still, it’s a pretty iconic piece of cinema scoring and one of the most recognizable theme songs today. Even more impressive when you know that it was composed somewhere 35,000 feet up in the sky, among a group of terrified travelers.
Zanandi doesn’t write “Batman” comics, but she does write other comics. Not about bats. Follow her on Twitter.
Top Image: Warner Bros.