According to showbiz logic, Danny Elfman should be a whatever-happened-to story by now. The onetime frontman of ’80s new-wave combo Oingo Boingo has escaped a Wedding Singer-style fate by composing music for flicks like Batman, Mission: Impossible, and To Die For. Which puts the 44-year-old iconoclast in a weird place: juggling dual Oscar nods for Men in Black and Good Will Hunting. ”My underground status,” Elfman sighs, ”is quickly disappearing.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Not long ago you said, ”I’ll never get an Oscar nomination.”
DANNY ELFMAN: There was a joke going around: Even if they created a category for Best Danny Elfman Score, they’d still find a reason not to nominate me. There were a lot of people in the Academy who really hated my guts.
DE: I suppose there’s jealousy in every field, but composers are very insidious and jealous towards those who are uneducated. The feeling is, who is this guy who comes from a rock band?
EW: So how’d you react to the news?
DE: I was especially shocked because I didn’t know the nominations had happened and my agent woke me up at six in the morning – and I’d only been asleep about three hours. It was like, ”What the f – - are you calling me for?!” My first reaction was that he’d had a car accident.
EW: Titanic’s score has turned into a massive sales phenom. Does that raise the stakes?
DE: Not for me. That market is still adult contemporary radio, middle-of-the-road – and my instincts are way off to the left somewhere. I listen to that score, which is so evocative of Enya, and my instincts would never have allowed me to do it.
EW: Your instincts did keep you from becoming a slab of ’80s nostalgia.
DE: Oh, yeah. I’m very glad to not be in that slot. The ’80s started out really exciting and fresh, but by the mid-’80s the whole thing had just become awful. That was the nicest thing about going into film composing from rock & roll: I went from being an elder statesman in one profession to a young pup in the next. But coming from rock & roll, I’m always expecting this plunge: In five years I’ll probably be scrambling for Police Academy 17.
EW: Have you written an Oscar speech?
DE: I’m not going to be getting an Oscar. First off, they’re just going to give Titanic awards for every category because the love-fest is so intense. I am not preparing a speech.
EW: But you’re going, right?
DE: I’ve always shied away from these events. I like little cheesy events. I love going to the Academy of Science Fiction and Fantasy awards, where Adam West is the host and they call to tell you that you’ve won.
EW: Have you rented a tux?
DE: You’ll never get me in a tux. Not until I’m dead and I have no choice because that’s what the undertaker put me in.