Born Hans Florian Zimmer on September 12, 1957, in Frankfurt, Germany; married Suzanne; two children. Addresses: Business--Media Ventures, 1547 14th St., Santa Monica, CA 90404, website: http://www.mediaventures.com.
The film scores of composer Hans Zimmer are as varied as the films they provide music for. One score may cause the viewer to laugh harder, another may make the heart pound faster, and yet another might make a moviegoer cry harder. "I'm this loose cannon--all over the place," Zimmer told Edwin Black in Film Score Monthly online. "I can do action movies and romantic comedies.... The bottom line is I'm trying to serve the film just like the director is trying to serve the film." After nearly 20 years as a composer, Zimmer has provided musical scores for more than 80 films.
Hans Florian Zimmer was born on September 12, 1957, in Frankfurt, Germany. His interest in music began at a very early age. He began playing piano at the age of three, but his interest in lessons waned after just two weeks. When he was six years old, he decided that he wanted to become a composer. "My dad died when I was six," Zimmer told CNN Worldbeat. "That's when I decided I was going to become really serious about music, because it was my refuge. It was my way of calming the demons in me or at the same time sometimes letting them roar, letting them rip, letting the monster out and seeing that it wasn't so scary being able to look it in the eye."
When Zimmer was 14 years old, he moved to England. Throughout his childhood, he was expelled from several different schools because he preferred to study music instead of his schoolwork. When he finally finished school, he began his music career by writing jingles for commercials and playing in rock bands. In 1979, Zimmer, along with Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, put together a band called the Buggles. The group recorded the album The Age of Plastic, which included the hit song "Video Killed the Radio Star." The video for the single became the first ever to be shown on MTV.
Despite the group's success, Zimmer did not enjoy the recording process with the Buggles, and he was not happy having to write only one style of music. "I used to be in a band, but that got to be boring," Zimmer later recalled to David Kohner Zuckerman in Brtnwd magazine. "Now I have bigger bands for shorter periods of time."
After leaving the Buggles, Zimmer went to work for composer Stanley Myers, who began to teach him more about scoring films. "Stanley took me in," Zimmer told Cinemusic online. "From the first day that I was his assistant, he just let me write things.... I thought it was great that there was that system in place whereby someone who really knew a lot would give you room and support, and bring you up and give you a chance." Zimmer and Myers set up the Lillie Yard Studio in London. They collaborated on several film scores, including Moonlighting, The Lightship, The Castaway, and My Beautiful Launderette.
In 1986, Zimmer worked by himself on the score for Vardo. The following year, he teamed with David Byrne and Ryuichi Sakamoto to produce the soundtrack for The Last Emperor. By the mid-1980s, his career as a film composer was well on its way, but it was in 1988 that it truly took off. Zimmer had composed the score for a small budget film called A World Apart, which was about South Africa. The wife of producer Barry Levinson played the soundtrack for her husband about the time that he was getting ready to hire someone to score Rain Man. Levinson was so impressed with Zimmer's work that he hired him to score his film as well. Zimmer won an Academy Award nomination for his work on Rain Man. He moved to Los Angeles following the success of the film.
In 1989 Zimmer won a Grammy Award nomination for his work on Driving Miss Daisy. He also received industry and audience recognition for the score for Thelma & Louise in 1991. In 1994, Zimmer produced his most successful score up to that point when he worked on The Lion King. The soundtrack became the most successful in the history of Walt Disney Records with 12 million copies sold worldwide. The following year, Zimmer won a Golden Globe for Best Original Score, a Chicago Film Critics Award for Best Score, an American Music Award for Best Album of the Year, two Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, and a Tony Award nomination for Best Original Score for The Lion King on Broadway.
Zimmer saw his success with The Lion King as a fork in the road of his career. "Lion King made me reassess my situation in this town," Zimmer told Black. "You can go two ways. I admit that standing on the stage and getting an Oscar [Academy Award] is the most seductive moment one can have in one's life. It is truly overwhelming. Then you go, 'Wow, if I just carry on writing nice music like this, I can have this moment again....' That's why I did the exact opposite, scoring for truly offensive projects like The Fan. Just to shake myself out of the desire for that Oscar experience. Otherwise, I would just stagnate."
Although he chose to take the path less glittered, Zimmer did continue to receive recognition for his work. In 1996, he won a Grammy Award for his score for Crimson Tide, and he received another Academy Award nomination for The Preacher's Wife. That same year, the performing rights organization BMI presented him with its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award before Zimmer was even 40 years old. He received another Academy Award nomination in 1998 for the score to As Good As It Gets.
In the late 1990s, Zimmer accepted a position as head of the music division with the DreamWorks SKG studio. While there, he supervised the music for all of their film and television projects and wrote the score for the animated feature The Prince of Egypt, which earned him both a Golden Globe nomination and an Academy Award nomination. He also wrote the score for The Road to El Dorado, another DreamWorks animated feature. In 2000, Zimmer worked with DreamWorks and director Ridley Scott on the hit film Gladiator. He also wrote the score for Mission: Impossible 2, released that same year. On October 10, 2000, Zimmer performed a rare live concert with the Flemish Radio Orchestra in Ghent, Belgium, to celebrate the opening of the 27th Flanders International Film Festival. The following year, his scores appeared on two more hit movies, Hannibal and Pearl Harbor.
In addition to his work as a composer, Zimmer formed a business with his partner Jay Rifkin called Media Ventures in 1989. The company serves as a conglomerate of composers who can produce and record nearly anything related to media music. The business also gives Zimmer a way to help talented new composers in the same way that Myers helped him when he was just starting out. In the end, though, Zimmer's heart is firmly planted in film scoring. "If something happened where I couldn't write music anymore, it would kill me," he told CNN Worldbeat. "It's not just a job, it's not just a hobby; it's why I get up in the morning."
Over the years, Zimmer has earned a reputation for maximizing the use of electronics and technological inventions in his music. As such, he has been able to produce sounds and textures that had not previously been heard in film music. Despite all of the recognition he has received for his work, Zimmer remains one of his own harshest critics. Of all the scores he has written, he has been proud of very few. Those that make his list of personal favorites include A World Apart, Driving Miss Daisy, Drop Zone, True Romance, The Fan, Crimson Tide, Prince of Egypt, and Two Deaths, a small film he did for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in the United Kingdom.
by Sonya Shelton
Hans Zimmer's Career
Began playing piano at the age of three; decided to become a composer at the age of six; moved to England, 1971; started his music career writing jingles for commercials; formed the Buggles rock band, released single "Video Killed the Radio Star" and album The Age of Plastic, 1979; composed first film score for Moonlighting, 1982; credited with more than 80 film scores, 1982-2001.
Hans Zimmer's Awards
Academy Award, Best Original Score, 1995; Golden Globe, Best Original Score, 1995; Chicago Film Critics Award, Best Score, 1995; two Grammy Awards for Lion King, 1995; American Music Award, Best Album of the Year, 1995; Grammy Award for Crimson Tide, 1996; BMI's Lifetime Achievement Award, 1996.
- Selected discography
- As film scorer
- Rain Man , Capitol, 1989.
- Thelma & Louise , MCA, 1991.
- A League of Their Own , Columbia, 1992.
- K2--Music Inspired by the Film , Varese, 1992.
- True Romance , Morgan Creek, 1993.
- Cool Runnings , Sony, 1993.
- The Fan , TVT Records, 1996.
- The Preacher's Wife , BMG/Arista, 1996.
- As Good As it Gets , Sony, 1998.
- Prince of Egypt , UNI/DreamWorks, 1998.
- Millennium: Tribal Wisdom , Narada, 1999.
- Thin Red Line , RCA Victor, 1999.
- Gladiator--Music from the Motion Picture , Decca, 2000.
- Mission: Impossible 2 , Hollywood Records, 2000.
- The Wings of a Film , Decca, 2001.
- Hannibal , Decca, 2001.
- Pearl Harbor , Warner Bros., 2001.
December 2003: Zimmer's business partner of 15 years, Jay Rifkin, filed a $10 million suit claiming Zimmer excluded him by "secretly conspir[ing]
- Brntwd (Santa Monica, CA), May-June 2000.
- Entertainment Weekly, June 24, 1994.
- "Fearless Visionary: Hans Zimmer," Cinemusic, http://www.cinemusic.com (June 23, 2001).
- "Hans Zimmer," Film Score Monthly, http://www.filmscoremonthly.com (June 23, 2001).
- "Hans Zimmer," Ilio, http://www.ilio.com/artists/zimmer (June 23, 2001).
- "Hans Zimmer," Ovation: The Arts Network, http://www.ovationtv.com/rhythm/hzimmer (June 23, 2001).
- "Hans Zimmer (Composer)," Sony Pictures Classics, http://www.spe.sony.com (June 23, 2001).
- "Hans Zimmer: The Man Behind The Lion King Soundtrack and More," CNN Worldbeat, http://cnn.com.tr/2000/ (June 23, 2001).
- "Hans Zimmer: They Shoot, He Scores," American Society of Composer, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), http://www.ascap.com/playback (June 23, 2001).
- "Pearl Harbor," Cinemusic, http://www.cinemusic.com (June 23, 2001).
- "Walt Disney Records: Biography of Hans Zimmer," Walt Disney Records, http://disney.go.com/disneyrecords (June 23, 2001).