Brian Helgeland's script was founded on an simple but audacious conceit - that medieval jousting shares so much with contemporary stadium sports, they should share their music as well. He wrote familiar stadium anthems such as Queen's "We Will Rock You" into his script and gave me the job of creating some bridge between these musical ages.
My basic themes mix medieval modes with poppy melodies, and the instrumentation includes everything from hurdy-gurdy and ancient strings to symphony orchestra and rude brass blunderbusses such as cimbasso. David Torn's electric guitar playing, as always, belongs to an age all its own.
One scene is a formal dance, which calls for courtly music based on my love theme to segue into David Bowie's song "Golden Years". It presented several challenges. First, the whole dance had been choreographed and filmed to an arbitrary tempo which begins at a slow courtly pace and speeds up and up until Bowie's song kicks in. I had to match that tempo and the choreography after the fact and also find some credible path from a formal and restrained dance to a joyful '70s pop tune.
We got Bowie's permission to pull tracks from his multitrack master so I could mix these into my arrangement, helping to introduce his song before it has really begun. The end result is not on either of the CDs which were released, but an excerpt is available here under Audio Samples as "Angel - Golden Years". Tony Visconti, who produced the original recording of the song superivised the remix session and Mr. Bowie dropped by as well to hear what we found in his multitrack.
Written and directed by Brian Helgeland
Composed and Conducted by Carter Burwell
Orchestrators: Sonny Kompanek, Carter Burwell
Music Editor: Adam Smalley
Music Scoring Mixer: Mike Farrow
Contractor: Isobel Griffiths
Recorded at Air Lyndhurst Studio, London
Mixed at The Body Studio
Starring Heath Ledger, Rufus Sewell, Shannyn Sossamon, Paul Bettany, Alan Tudyk
U.S. Release May, 2001
Here are some excerpts from the score, which is available from iTunes and Amazon.
"The always witty composer Carter Burwell lets his score comment on the arena rock bombast; he adds a percussive backbeat to the lute, flutes and mandolins and tosses in a bit of John Philip Sousa, too, to augment the saber-rattling." - Elvis Mitchell, New York Times, May 11, 2001.
"Ace composer Carter Burwell fights a futile uphill battle to assert his orchestral compositions in the face of the rock 'n' roll outbursts." - Todd McCarthy, Variety, April 19, 2001.
A few trivia:
Five films released by Columba Pictures in 2001 were marketed with print ads that included positive comments by reviewer David Manning, a film critic for the small Connecticut newspaperThe Ridgefield Press. Eventually Newsweek broke the news that David Manning did not exist but was a creation of Columbia's advertising department. As a result of a class action lawsuit, the studio agreed (in 2005) to refund $5 to anyone who saw any of the films (A Knight's Tale, Hollow Man, The Patriot, The Animal and Vertical Limit) at the time of the fraud.
A Knight's Tale was the in-flight movie on United flight 93 on September 11, 2001.