Hans Zimmer in Dubai: Oscar-winning composer talks about ‘stage fright’, making music for blockbuster films

With the bronze tickets selling out in a few hours after they went on sale, it is clear that the city can’t wait for his performance


Lamya Tawfik

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Photos by Shihab
Photos by Shihab

Published: Tue 29 Nov 2022, 7:50 AM

Last updated: Tue 29 Nov 2022, 5:53 PM

“I have a habit of always saying yes to things. When you’re incredibly passionate about something you’ll forget that there’s something called sleep or eat. You get swallowed. I got swallowed a few times.”

Nearly one month ahead of his first ever live show in the Middle East, award-winning music composer Hans Zimmer spoke passionately about his love for what he does. A passion that is palpable and real - one that he promises to transmit to his eager audience in his live show.

In a media briefing at Roxy Cinemas, Dubai Hills Mall, Zimmer, the man whose music speaks volumes and who wrote the scores of movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Gladiator, No Time to Die, The Lion King, Dune, just to name a few, talked about his life’s work and about the reason he started doing live shows.

“I was in my studio for 40 years until one day Pharrell Williams told me that I needed to meet my audience, I can’t be inside the whole time, so I had to tell him about stage fright,” he said. He was then made an offer he couldn’t refuse. “Then he said, 'I’m performing at the Grammys. Want to come play the guitar?' Only an idiot would say no to that.”

And this was how the Hans Zimmer Live show was born. “I wanted to take my shows around the world to experience the different cultures and it has been a remarkable thing to do,” he said.

During the briefing a short video of his live shows was played to demonstrate the magnitude of work that goes behind the productions and how every musician performed with passion. “I never really know what the audience expects but there’s a lot of organization that goes into it. I treat is as a dinner party with nearly 20,000 guests or more!” he said. So far, he says, it has been a great adventure. “I’m lucky to have a super talented team to help me produce things and to make me go on stage,” he said.


Luckily for Dubai residents, it will be the first city in the Middle East to host the Hans Zimmer Live shows in January 2023. “My instinct told me that right now Dubai is the place where poetry, music and art merge. I think this place is singular in its appetite and sophistication towards culture and music,” he said. With the bronze tickets selling out in a few hours after the tickets went on sale, it is clear that the city can’t wait for his show.

In his live shows, Zimmer said that he pays tribute to people who are important for him. “I pay tribute to their memory. They are people who are not around anymore but who are important to me personally. They are part of the spirit of my journey,” he said. One of them, for instance, is Tony Scott, who gave him the opportunity to work on a score before he even had a name or career. “His producer said, ‘Hans who?’. I miss him tremendously and I loved working with him on Crimson Tide and True Romance,” he said.

When Zimmer reminisces about the work he’s done, from working to movies set in ancient times to others that are set in the Caribbean to movies set in space and an animation movie set in Africa, it is evident that he puts his heart and soul into his work and that his approach is that of a true artist, painting a picture alongside the directors of the movies. On working with Ridley Scott in Gladiator, Zimmer describes him as “very funny” and “a great artist.”

But what comes first, the script or the score? Surely the script? Zimmer tells a story of how this isn’t necessarily the case. In a party he met Christopher Nolan, who then told him of an idea. “’I’m going to write you a letter and then you write whatever music that comes to your mind’ he told me. Of course, I said yes,” he said.

The letter had a story of what it was like to be a parent, so he wrote the music, which he describes as a “love letter”. When Nolan shared the story of Interstellar with him, the movie the music would ultimately be used for, Zimmer said he was surprised. “It was all about space and galaxies and I said: but I wrote a fragile, heart-felt theme and to that he replied: ‘Well, I guess I have to do the movie now and I know where the heart of the story is’. Sometimes these things happen before the story is created,” he said.

When they later worked on Inception, Christopher shared with him that he was worried that people wouldn’t get the story. “I told him that with music we do layers of time. You have to trust the river – which is the music – to take you somewhere,” said Zimmer.

When creating the scores for movies, Zimmer, whose greatest influence has been Italian composer Ennio Morricone, said that he knows that he has only one job. “To figure out the dream the director has that he can’t quite attain and to help him get closer to his dream. This is how we give people an experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

On working on Dune, the movie that won him his latest Oscar, Zimmer said that he knew the book really well and was happy to be asked to work on it. He said he read the book when he was a teenager and that he had already created a movie in his head, so he didn’t even watch the David Lynch movie which came out in the 1980s. “The director liked that I knew it so well. We have an empathetic relationship, we love obscure things that only he and I love tremendously, and we get really excited about it and no one understands why,” he said, laughing.

Hans Zimmer has two Academy Awards – The Lion King (1995), Dune (2022), one British Academy Film Award for Dune (2022), three Golden Globe Awards for The Lion King (1995), Gladiator (2001), Dune (2022) and four Grammy Awards – two for The Lion King (1995), one for Crimson Tide (1995) and one for The Dark Knight (2009).

Following the briefing Hans took part in Roxy Cinemas' first ever handprinting ceremony. The slabs of mud with celebrity handprints will showcase Roxy’s important guests.

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