I talked to Dominic Lewis, a composer who’s worked on Ducktales, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and many other projects. Enjoy our conversation below.
Monkeys Fighting Robots: To start, give our readers some background knowledge on who you are, where you come from, etc.
Dominic Lewis: I was born in England. Both of my parents are musicians, so I started doing music from a really early age. I started playing Cello when I was 3. I was always singing, as far as I can remember. I was in choir as a kid, too. Then I got a little bit older and found rock music. I started forming bands with friends, writing songs, and that was cool for a while but then I wanted to do more. My dad started recording film scores in London, so I got really interested in that and fell in love with the usual, John Williams and Alan Silvestri. I had a background in classical music, so it was the next step. Then I went to boarding school when I was 11, then when I was 15 I met Rupert Gregson-Williams’ daughter. So then I got introduced to Rupert, he was super cool. I expressed my love of film music, that’s what I wanted to do; he encouraged me to come down to his studio to hang out and watch him work, so it grew from there. I went to the Academy of Music in London. The idea was to work for Rupert, but he was full and there were no job opportunities. So he put in a good work with Hans Zimmer so I came out to Los Angeles. A couple of my Dad’s friends from the orchestra came out to stay with John Powell. I went to meet them, met John, and my Dad’s friends put in a good word for me. John put me through, sort of, a trial on How To Train Your Dragon and it went pretty well.
MFR: You had a way into the industry along with a passion for music. That worked out well.
Lewis: Yeah it did, totally. I’m very fortunate to have the necessary contacts. It’s terrifying at first. Working with John Powell, it’s not scary in terms of what I had to do, but he’s just a dream to work for, and the scale of it is massive – working on big Hollywood films and being so young. But working with Rupert since I was 15 kind of got me ahead of the game on that front, and that was valuable to me. I just have helped with movies since that point on and now.
MFR: You have worked on huge films like How To Train Your Dragon, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: First Class, Money Monster, and others. Take the readers through your experience working on these projects.
Lewis: It’s a dream come true. My role on X-Men and Captain America were different than Money Monster because Money Monster was my first Drama, and the credits you just see me. I had to write all the music, that was a very different experience. But not jumping forward so quickly, what I did on those other movies was basically taking the themes and material that the main composer came up with for the movie and helping them get the job done, whatever that may be. It kind of changes from movie to movie, but Henry and I, after my little stint with John, I did a few things with Hans Zimmer, I was free for a couple of months and I helped out Henry on Gulliver’s Travels and we kind of clicked. We are from similar backgrounds, we studied music, both choir boys, and we like all different kinds of stuff. Learning stuff from Henry in the first few years, by the time I got to X-Men and certainly Captain America, we had a really great shorthand with each other. It was a really awesome collaborative experience. I’ve learned so much from that guy, and I’m very thankful for it. Money Monster was because of him. Man in the High Castle was because of him. But it wasn’t really a teacher-student thing, because those movies are such a massive undertaking that you do need to bring in help. It takes everybody. It was a great few years for me, to learn and absorb everything from Henry. But not just Henry, everybody. Hopefully I’m carving my own path now.
MFR: To round out our discussion on film, do you have a favorite movie you’ve worked on?
Lewis: I obviously enjoy Free Birds because it’s my first big feature by myself, I have John Powell to thank for that. But Money Monster was such a whirlwind, an incredible experience for me. Not having any time and having to come up with stuff. The big thing about Money Monster, for me, was this. James Newton Howard said, “No one will ever remember how much time you had to do this score, they will only remember if it was good or bad.” So, Money Monster for me, I had a very limited time to do it, so it was extremely daunting. Working with Jodie Foster, you know, is very surreal. I really pushed myself to come up with good sounds, and a good sounds palate, and and just really tried to nail the movie in such a short span of time. Jodie had gone through another score before and she wasn’t happy with it; for me to come in and basically give her what she wanted and for her to be so happy with it, and for me to be proud of it, despite how the movie did, it was a big accomplishment. It was a change for me, in terms of growing up a little bit. Throwing me into the deep end, and I didn’t drown.
MFR: Moving away from your work in movies, let’s talk a little bit about Ducktales. The 2017 reboot is extremely popular. Many people grew up with the original series from 1987. It’s a classic. I just want to get your thoughts regarding the show. How did you feel when you landed the job?
Lewis: It’s so beloved by everybody, and you don’t want to mess with people’s memories. It’s childhood for me and I think that’s why I took the gig in the first place, because it’s so close to my heart. I loved the original series. Approaching that, I was very excited, but you don’t want to annoy people. It’s a very fine line, and from the top all the way down, the creators of the show all the way to me, or the animators, it’s all about creating the best version of Ducktales. I’m sorry if I annoy people with this statement, I apologize, but I go back and watch some of the original episodes on Youtube and I can’t understand what Huey, Louie, and Dewey are saying. We have this really amazing memory of things, and it’s still good, but you know. Our goal was to create the best version of Ducktales, like how we all remember. I really, wholeheartedly, believe they did that. They did such an amazing job with this show, in creating something that is so appealing to kids now, but also so great for us, you know? I’m 32 now and there are so many jokes in there for adults who are watching with their kids. It’s super funny, and the new style of animation is great. It’s such a great combination of the comic books and the original show. Everyone involved in the show, they do it because they love it. That’s why I took the gig. I love it, and that’s everybody. From animators to the top, and it really shows when you watch it. There is so much care given to it. I just feel very lucky to be a part of it.
MFR: We talked about everything you worked on, Ducktales, several films. What do you have in the pipeline? Can you talk a bit about Peter Rabbit?
Lewis: I am working on Peter Rabbit, and that’s another thing that I grew up with. Again, this is not what you think it is. It’s a little different. Will Gluck has done such an amazing job keeping it true to the original, but going somewhere different with it. It’s so funny. I genuinely, really, think James Corden was put on this earth to play this Peter Rabbit character. He’s so, so funny. The whole cast is brilliant. I’m just now starting to get into the rendered animation, and I can tell you, it just looks phenomenal. What they’ve done with these rabbits, somehow, they have created real rabbits. It’s pretty amazing. Super excited for people to see that. As I said, it’s not quite what some people are expecting, and that’s all I’ll say on that. It’s a fun one. I’m doing the third season of The Man in the High Castle at the moment, so that’s going places and it’s exciting. We have a new showrunner. I’m also doing a movie called Hunter Killer, which is a submarine movie with Gerard Butler. That’s it right now, and it’s enough [laughs].