Danny Elfman Almost Had a Breakdown Composing Batman Score

Danny Elfman’s music to Tim Burton’s groundbreaking ‘Batman’ may remain to this day one of the most iconic superhero movie scores ever - but composer Danny Elfman has revealed it brought him to the edge psychologically.

Elfman tells the NY Post, “’Batman’ was very stressful — almost nervous-breakdown stressful. All I had done up to then was quirky comedies. Nobody but Tim wanted me on the movie. I really had to prove myself.”

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The 1989 film seems to have been quite the trial by fire for many of the key players, Burton having also famously fought for Michael Keaton  - far from the obvious or popular choice - to play the title role opposite Jack Nicholson’s Joker.

Elfman also notes, “There was a desire to have me collaborate with Prince [who wrote additional music for the film], but I was not open to that.”

Among the ‘quirky comedies’ Elfman had scored beforehand were Burton’s first two feature films, ‘Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure’ and ‘Beetlejuice.’ Aside from these, when ‘Batman’ came around Elfman remained best known as the singer and songwriter of new wave band Oingo Boingo, who provided the theme song to the John Hughes hit ‘Weird Science.’

Elfman (below left, with Burton) says he came to ‘Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure’ with “no [film] experience…  I was hoping I didn’t ruin this guy’s movie.”

Still, although Burton has continued to work with Elfman extensively in the three decades since, the composer insists his relationship with the director hasn’t necessarily gotten any easier over the years:

“Quite the contrary. I never think “Oh, Tim’s gonna love this.” One of the most consistently interesting things about Tim is how unpredictable he can be. He’s neurotic, but so am I.”

Still, while Elfman might have been a wild card choice in 1989, his ‘Batman’ score ranks alongside John Williams’s ‘Superman’ music as one of the most memorable superhero movie themes of all time, and Elfman quickly became one of the most in-demand composers in Hollywood, as he remains to this day.

The other comic book-based movies he has scored since include ‘Dick Tracy,’ ‘Batman Returns,’ the ‘Men in Black’ trilogy, the first two ‘Spider-Man’ movies, ‘Hellboy II: the Golden Army,’ and most recently ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron.’

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Picture Credit: Warner Bros, WENN