Trent Reznor has been hitting the press circuit in recent weeks to promote Jonah Hill‘s new movie, Mid90s, to which Reznor and Atticus Ross contributed original music. Seven years removed from earning a surprise Oscar for scoring The Social Network, the Nine Inch Nails frontman now seems at ease navigating Hollywood—so much so that he’s comfortable sneak-dissing an unidentified past collaborator. In interviews with Stereogum and Variety, Reznor has tiptoed around the fact that one of his feature film experiences was not great.
To Stereogum, Reznor discussed learning that not every project enlists composers in good faith, and admitted, “We’ve made some mistakes.”
You learn that a lot of films are really just investments. Like, this director and this star plus this genre equals this box office. So music is just a thing you have to have in it. I try to avoid that shit and we’ve made some mistakes and now what we’re looking for is simply trying to find people who are trying to make excellent films and are trying to do something with complete integrity. And it’s harder than you would think. [Laughs] And it’s also a gamble thinking, “Maybe this person’s trying to do it.” And then you get involved in it and … maybe or maybe not. I’m trying to avoid naming names here.
In an interview published today, Variety‘s Chris Willman pushed Reznor on comments describing his work with David Fincher as more rewarding than more recent films. Reznor dodged:
Out of character for me, I don’t want to get into shit-talking. [Laughs] … we consciously are attempting to have this parallel career as scoring composers ideally never become the thing that we’re relying on to pay the check, or that feels like just doing the thing that’s obvious. That means paying attention and attempting to read the tarot cards as to the people we’re getting involved with. I’m just trying to be involved in making something excellent — trying to make the very best work you can do, even when good enough is OK, where it really doesn’t matter if anyone else agrees or not, because you know in your soul you’ve done something that has real value to it.
Ross added that some of the duo’s composing experiences “have been more testing.” We can’t help but wonder which ones.
Reznor has fawned over Fincher, with whom he and Ross reconnected to score The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl. Reznor told Variety that Hill was “super cool” and described their working relationship positively. Before Mid90s, the pair also scored Fisher Stevens’s climate change documentary Before the Flood, Peter Berg’s Boston Marathon bombing flick Patriots Day, and Ken Burns’s episodic Vietnam War doc; unreleased projects featuring Reznor and Ross’s music include Trey Edward Shults’s Waves, Joe Wright’s The Woman in the Window, Susanne Bier’s Bird Box, and Damon Lindelof’s serialized Watchmen adaptation.
We can’t speak to Reznor’s thoughts on forthcoming projects, but here’s how he described working on Patriots Day—a movie starring Mark Wahlberg, one of the most bankable actors in Hollywood—to Spin in 2016:
I think the movie turned out better than we even thought it might. There’s more music in it than I thought there needed to be, quite personally. The omnipresence of it, and the role of it in terms of carrying certain themes, makes me a little uncomfortable … I’m just being honest with you. That’s the catch about saying you want to be in an uncomfortable situation. It’s easy to say it, and then you actually realize, “Hey, I’m in an uncomfortable situation, and I don’t like it. It’s not comfortable.” We did manage to wander into that territory … again, it’s a process.
Or maybe it’s someone else!