Daniel Robert Elfman loved music and movies as a child and would spend his spare time at the cinema where he grew to appreciate the musical scores, particularly those of Nino Rota, Bernard Herrmann and Max Steiner. While Danny was still at school his elder brother Richard moved to France to perform as an actor in Jérôme Savaray's Le Grand Magic Circus in Paris and in 1971 the younger Elfman dropped out and joined him. A later trip to West Africa was cut short after he contracted malaria and he returned home to Los Angeles where he spent time playing music. Late in 1972 Richard put together the highly theatrical new wave band The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo which Danny joined two years later and when Richard quit in 1976 to concentrate on forging a career as a movie director he took over as lead singer and principle songwriter. The band built a reputation as an exciting live attraction around the Los Angles area and entered (and won) the popular NBC TV talent contest The Gong Show in 1976 while they also made a cameo appearance in a fantasy sequence in the movie I Never Promised You A Rose Garden the following year. When Richard Elfman wrote, produced and directed the 1980 movie The Forbidden Zone, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo starred and in addition to providing Danny the opportunity to act (playing Satan) more crucially it allowed him to make his debut as a film score composer. The band later shortened their name to Oingo Boingo and between 1979 and 1995 established themselves as one of the most innovative and acclaimed bands of the day through their concerts, their minor but famous US hit single 'Weird Science' and a series of popular albums released on I.R.S., MCA and Giant Records.
In 1985 while still leading the band Elfman had been approached by comedic actor Paul Reubens and nascent film director Tim Burton to compose the score for their movie Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and with help from his fellow band member Steve Bartek created a energetic score that perfectly complimented the movie. More importantly Elfman and Burton found they had much in common and the pair went on to collaborate on all but two of the director's subsequent movies, an impressive list that includes Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Mars Attacks (1996), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Planet Of The Apes (2001), Big Fish (2003), Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), Alice In Wonderland (2010), Dark Shadows (2012) and Frankenweenie (2012). Elfman's association with Burton also found him contributing the vocals for the Jack Skellington character in The Nightmare Before Christmas and the speaking and singing voice for the skeleton Bojangles in The Corpse Bride.
It was not only Burton who was impressed with his work, he became much in demand by numerous other film makers and his credits also include: Midnight Run (1988) (starring Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin), Scrooged (1988), Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy (1990), Darkman (1990), Sommersby (1993), Black Beauty (1994), Dolores Claiborne (1995), Mission Impossible (1996), The Frighteners (1996), Freeway (1996), Men In Black (1997), Good Will Hunting (1997), A Simple Plan (1998), A Civil Action (1998), Instinct (1999), The Family Man (2000), Spider-Man (2002), Men In Black II (2002), Red Dragon (2002), Hulk (2003), Spider-Man 2 (2004), Meet The Robinsons (2007), The Kingdom (2007), Standard Operating Procedure (2008), Wanted (2008), Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), Milk (2008), Terminator Salvation (2009), The Next Three Days (2010), Restless (2011), Men In Black 3 (2012), Hitchcock (2012), Oz The Great And Powerful (2013), Epic (2013), American Hustle (2013), Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014) as well as being chosen to compose the score for the highly anticipated Fifty Shades Of Grey (2015). Many of his soundtracks have been hugely popular when released as albums, particularly Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Nightbreed (1990), Sleepy Hollow (1999) and Alice In Wonderland (2010). It's interesting to note that the most successful records are those composed for Tim Burton projects where perhaps he and the director share a very similar vision.
Elfman has not confined himself to just film either, he is also responsible for several TV theme tune including: Sledge Hammer! (1986), the globally famous The Simpsons (1986), The Flash (1990), Batman: The Animated Series (1992), Dilbert (1999), Desperate Housewives (2004) and Point Pleasant (2005). His composition Serenada Schizophrana was performed by the American Composers Orchestra at New York's Carnegie Hall in 2005 before recording a studio version Serenada Schizophrana the following year. In 2011 he wrote an original piece for the Cirque du Soleil's production of IRIS at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre. His work has received dozens of award nominations of which he has won: one Grammy, one Emmy, one Satellite Award, one Annie Award, five Saturn Awards and twenty-four BMI Film & Television Awards. In 2003 he married Bridget Fonda (daughter of Peter, niece of Jane and granddaughter of the late Henry Fonda) and the couple have one son while Elfman also has two children from a previous marriage.
A completely self-taught multi-instrumentalist and composer who received no formal training whatsoever Danny Elfman perfectly segued from rock music to film soundtracks with remarkable ease. His unique approach, helped by his previous theatrically informed new wave rock experience has helped to establish him as one of the most innovative composers scoring for the big screen today.
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