Composer Christopher Lennertz on “Horrible Bosses 2”
Posted on December 1, 2014 at 7:00 am
I am usually so busy taking notes when I am at a movie screening that I don’t have time to pay much attention to the score, but at “Horrible Bosses 2” I took a moment to scrawl “great music!” Not a surprise. As I explained in our last interview, Christopher Lennertz is tops when it comes to movie comedy. And this one was coming home for him — not his first sequel, but the first where he worked on the first one.
I loved the variety and selection of songs in the film, from classics to some surprises. How do you work on a score that is so song-driven?
Honestly, the first thing I have to do as somebody who is writing the underscore is to make sure that I don’t get into the way of any of the songs, the big songs, in any way that would take away how effective they’re going to be. And then also making sure that I know that what I write is going to fit with all their sounds, so the audience gets the feeling that they’re in the right world. But this one actually turned out to be more interesting because there’s is a part towards the end of the movie where they actually took scenes from my score from the first film and we did a matchup with Straight Outta Compton by NWA. And that just worked perfectly. I didn’t know that was actually going to work but it actually fit together really well. To me it was a nice way to take the character scenes from the first “Horrible Bosses” and then infuse it with this new energy with this new kidnapping that they were doing. It’s kind of like an iPod on crack in a way because it’s got such range.
What my score had to do was bring in bits and pieces that would then make all those work together. Because in my score I have got big guitars much more in the way that they would be in “How You Like Me Now,” from The Heavy and some a little more in the rock world but then I have hip-hop beats that would make more sense and there is a big Macklemore moment right in the middle. And so had a little modern pop and I had some little classic hip-hop beats and we tried to keep all of that mix together because the songs were so all over the place, in a good way. In a way to keep it really interesting and to make people feel that they’re having a really fun ride.
When you were growing up, did you ever think you would be called upon to write a song called . None of the three credited to you have titles that I can use when I write about this.
I know, unfortunately not. Well we did the same thing on the soundtrack with the first album. They are actually all lines from the movie. As soon as Julia walked out and said that line I was like, “Yup, that’s the song title.” I knew right away. I was like “Yup, that’s the one.”
You seem to gravitate to movies that combine comedy and action.
I love when they do that because when I even think back about some of my early favorite movies, they’re not just comedies. I loved “The Blues Brothers” growing up. That car chase was so fantastic and huge and I think they wrecked like 197 cars or something to do that.
I love it and I think it makes the comedy funnier when you do have moments of actions or moments of stuff where things are actually little serious. And then when the comedy pops up to take the edge off, there’s a bigger contrast, you know what I mean? And I think that’s what we try to do here. For example there was the spot when Chris Pines first, he started beating himself up to show how he would do it if he was kidnapping himself. So he was in their office and he started beating the daylights out of himself and so I was like, “All right, we should actually go extra serious on this so that by the end of it he’s got blood dripping down his nose. And then you cut back to the guys and you cut to Charlie Day and he’s got his jaw open. He’s like, “Oh my God what the hell is he doing?” And then I brought in a little funny kind of quirky guitar thing and it becomes more humorous because it was book ended by a lot more serious stuff and I think that kind of contrast is what makes it really pop.
Do you have character themes in the score?
Well, the three guys don’t have separate themes. They have their theme as a group, and that’s back from the first movie. And then there is a new theme for Chris Pine and there’s a new theme for Christoph Waltz which is mostly when he just first appears, because by the time he gets intermingled in their craziness their story is taking over. It’s really about them and Chris more than it’s about Christoph Waltz. And then of course Aniston got her theme which is back from the first movie but in different ways. And I think it’s even raunchier once we have gotten into the sex addicts meeting and then at the end when she walks in the hotel room. We kind of ramped it up to a lot of saxophones and then some low base and things like that and really try to sell that all the way home. It’s not like you need a lot of help by the way.
In the same way you’re mixing action with comedy, you’re mixing sex with comedy. And it’s very funny when we see the outtakes in the end. It is clear it was not easy for Jennifer Aniston to say some of those lines.
Yes and you can see that she’s trying to keep a straight face. And then she’s dying because she knows that’s totally against what people think her type is. And that’s probably that’s why she had so much fun doing the role.
Is it easier or harder to do a sequel?
I have done “Cats and Dogs 2” and a couple of others but I didn’t do the original for those. So it was nice to be able to do this and be able to go but to some of my thematic material after a year or two away from it, three years away from it, to be able to go back and say, “Yes, I remember what I like about that and I also remember what I didn’t get to do that last time that I wanted to but it didn’t fit the movie. And so it was it was kind of fun to be able to go back, and then revisit and change it in the new ways with the guys in new situations and the new characters that are in this movie. It made it feel fresh to me at least, and made it feel like I wasn’t just going back to the exact same thing. It was sort of a new interpretation but I’m such a huge fan of being respectful to movie series that everyone loves. When you see Indiana Jones, you want to hear Indiana Jones music. And when you see James Bond you want to hear James Bond music. So I feel like when people saw Charlie and Jason and Jason, they want to hear “Horrible Bosses,” and so to not let that happen would also be a big mistake. Same thing when Julia first walks into the dentist office, we all know what’s supposed to go there, let’s do it. That’s kind of my approach, a lot of love and respect.
I didn’t count, but it seemed to me there were more songs in the sequel.
I think there were more songs in this one than the first one. Not by a lot but by a few. I think there was more action in this one than the first one. And I think that it’s a lot easier to put songs over an action sequence than to put it underneath a lot of dialogue because inevitably nobody wants to have a really big song and then turn it down so you can actually hear what they’re saying. So I think because there were some more big action moments in this one that made it possible to put in more songs. And quite honestly I think the budget was a little bit bigger because the first movie did so well. And there was different director. But I would say there is about the same amount of score as there was in the first movie. And then there were just a couple more songs. So there is actually more music overall than the first one but I think was really fun and it really helped to have the right energy.
Did you ever have a horrible boss?
Of course, I had many. I think that the worst boss I’ve ever had, I wouldn’t even call it a boss because it was an internship. I wasn’t even being paid. It was literally right out of the movie “Swimming with the Sharks,” with Kevin Spacey. He would say, “Go down the street and pick me up a hot dog”, and I would bring it to him and he would open up the back and he would literally look at me and say “What the f*** is this?” And I’d be like, “What the… what do you mean what is this? You told me to get hot dogs”, and he’d be like, “I don’t want that anymore” and I would be like, “Are you kidding?” He would forget what he asked me to do and he would forget he never told me that he changed his mind.
It would be very hard to find anyone in this country who hasn’t at one point or the other had a boss that they didn’t like or have a job that they didn’t like. These three guys are idiots and if they can get out of their horrible situations that means you can do it. Or even if you can’t, there is something about that fantasy that makes people want to vicariously live through them and be like, “Wow, what if I kidnapped my boss.” Once that magic thing happens, I think that’s why people love it. Plus it was also so crazy and funny that people really wanted to see it and that’s why they came back for the second one.