San Diego native. Point Loma High School grad. Chargers fan. And now one of Hollywood's white-hot film composers.
Aaron Zigman is a classically trained pianist who cut his teeth writing, producing and arranging pop music for the likes of Christina Aguilera and Aretha Franklin. He got a break in 2002, when his friend Nick Cassavetes took a chance on him for the Denzel Washington/Dustin Hoffman movie John Q. But his “moment” came two years later when The Notebook (also directed by Cassavetes) took off, earning more than $80 million at the box office. Zigman's jazz-influenced score didn't go unnoticed, and it put his name on movie producers' short list.
“It's not an easy door to open,” he says. “I'll be a realist-it's a very hard one to crack. You need to create your own luck, and if you get the opportunity, you need to be ready. I worked hard at that over the years. That's the best way I can describe it.”
Once you're through the door, though, there's plenty of work. In the next few weeks, it will be hard to find a multiplex that doesn't have one of Zigman's scores in it.
“The most important thing about music writing is tune writing, in any shape or form,” he says. “It's one of the things I learned early on in my career in pop music. I love swinging 180 [degree turns] on genres, because that's the great thing about music and film. I spent all those years playing all those different styles and listening to all this different music, and this is the only place you can really take it to another world.”
Zigman gave CityBeat the skinny on three of his scores that are either in theaters now or about to premiere:
The Pitch: African-American teenagers coming of age in Atlanta. (Now playing)
The Score: “An urban film, no doubt, straight down the road. But the music is Southern spiritual at times. Chris Robinson is a great director with a sense of quirk. There's a lot of great rap artists in the film-Big Boi [of Outkast], T.I.'s in there-and the songs are in that cool, hip-hop vein. But I wrote Southern cues, using mandolins, kinda Gershwin-esque stuff, for the emotional parts. It's not your straight-ahead score, and it's not a total straight-ahead story.”
Take the Lead
The Pitch: Professional dancer at a turning point in his life dedicates himself to inner-city kids. (Opens April 7)
The Score: “I would call Take the Lead a crossover film. It's both ends of the spectrum-you've got Nat King Cole singing “Fascination,” ballroom songs like “Moon River,” and mambos, salsa and hip-hop. It's a coming-of-age movie, and Antonio Banderas is amazing in it.”
Akeelah and the Bee
The Pitch: Girl from South Central takes on the National Spelling Bee. (Opens April 28)
The Score: “It's very quirky. The film has a universal message. It's a combination of orchestra and a lot of dulcimers. A lot of Indian quality, it's very guitar-esque, with things that don't sound like guitars.”
The Pitch: Story of Jesse James Hollywood, one of the youngest people to land on the FBI's most wanted list. (Opens May 12)
The Score: “Raunchy. I mean, good raunchy. I've got a lot of metal, just tripped-out stuff. It's like rap meets heavy metal... gritty and trippy. The way [Cassavetes] captured high-school culture, he just nailed it. You want to talk about a departure from The Notebook, this is it. It's about the young drug-dealer culture, and it's a study of what those kids listen to.