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WE BOUGHT A ZOO

Music
Music informs Crowe's creative process, from writing to rehearsal, to playing music on set during filming, and ultimately to finalizing the music featured in the completed film. Crowe uses music extensively during production to inspire the actors' performances and create the appropriate mood. It also helps the crew understand the tone of the scenes they are filming.

During production, WE BOUGHT A ZOO was broadly "temped” with solo material from Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, Tom Petty, Simon and Garfunkel, Leon Russell, Warren Zevon, Kanye West, Bon Iver, Daniel Lanois, Joni Mitchell, U2 – and famed recording artist Jónsi, of the Icelandic band Sigur Rós. Jónsi would go on to compose the film's score. Crowe would cue a production assistant to play snippets of songs before, after, and even during scenes – all culled from a laptop containing Crowe's partial iTunes library filled with over 20,000 songs and a playlist for nearly every scene.

Upon the completion of principal photography, Crowe began finalizing his plans for the music and soundtrack. Jónsi's work is an integral part of the film's emotional landscape.

Written and recorded in short order, over four months this summer and fall at the famous Village Studios in Los Angeles and at the singer's home studio in his native Iceland, the soundtrack to WE BOUGHT A ZOO comprises more than a half-hour of brand new music from Jónsi, including two full songs and nine achingly beautiful themes, plus reimaginings of songs from Jónsi's acclaimed solo album, Go, as well as what might well be regarded as Sigur Rós' most memorable tune, Hoppípolla.

"Jónsi arrived from Iceland with a toy sampler keyboard and a headful of ideas,” says Crowe. "Within a week, he had composed a series of themes that would reflect everything we'd hoped for. In his music were all the highs and lows and passionate in-betweens of the film itself. The instinct that made the movie come full circle.”

Cameron's relationship with Jónsi and Sigur Rós goes back almost as far as the band's position in the international spotlight, to 2001 and the director's much-noticed inclusion of three of the band's songs in his successful film Vanilla Sky, starring Tom Cruise. Crowe has long heralded the band and their filmwork, to the extent that the secret project name for WE BOUGHT A ZOO was, in fact, "Heima,” in honor of the band's 2007 tour film.

"Early on it was obvious that Sigur Rós' music would have a profound effect on the making of WE BOUGHT A ZOO,” says Crowe. "In preparation for making the movie, we gave all the actors and crew members a copy of Sigur Rós' transcendent documentary, Heima.”

The closing scene of WE BOUGHT A ZOO is a cinematic homage to a specific moment in Heima when gleeful crowds stream in a Sigur Rós show in the far North of Iceland or, in this case, the newly opened zoo.

Among the original score and new songs is Gathering Stories, a song co-written by Jónsi and Crowe, in a collaborative first for the notoriously private Icelander. Orchestral arrangements on the score have been handled by previous Jónsi working partner, and composer Nico Muhly, who brings his quixotic genius to the string and brass sections.

As Crowe finalized the music and other post-production activities, he reflected on what he hopes audiences will experience watching WE BOUGHT A ZOO. "What I like best is that the film packs a wallop before you even realize it; it's telling a story that's deeper than you expected it to be, and then it kind of gets under your skin. You come in expecting something – and you get that, plus something extra. A lot of my favorite movies do that: you walk out of the showing and say, ‘Man, I didn't expect to go to that place. I miss those characters a little bit.”

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