Arts & Entertainment, Music


Hans Zimmer

Lesson time 08:03 min

Learn how Hans gets to know his characters in order to create memorable themes for them.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Approaching Character • Backstory • Relating to Them


You can get to know the characters in a film in two ways, and one I think is the wrong way. When I read the script I make up-- obviously I read the writer's words and the character does come across, but I'm suddenly becoming the actor, I'm suddenly becoming the character, and so usually my interpretation is wrong. Having Sherlock Holmes or Jack Sparrow or any of The Lion King, any of the characters I have worked with constantly have a German accent might be inappropriate to begin with. So the way I get to sneak up on it is partly talking to the director, who sometimes has a better sense of who the character is even than the actor himself, because by the time the actor inhabits the character-- and if you talk with great actors they are so inside that character that they can't describe it in an objective way anymore. So again, I usually come back to this very clumsy method, which is asking the director, tell me the story. Does this character have a past? Did some tragedy befall him in his youth, or something like this. What drives the character? What's hidden from us that we don't know about the character, that makes him behave in a certain way? That sets the whole thing into motion. And interesting characters do have a backstory, and sometimes you have to go and make one up for yourself. I remember sitting with Ron Howard and Peter Morgan on when we were doing Rush and the James Hunt character-- I mean, James Hunt, because obviously he existed in real life. There's a shot the camera travels past the cage with two-- in England they're called budgeries, these little canaries. And James Hunt actually-- after he quit racing-- he started a budgerie farm, he was breeding these birds. And there's a weird thing about these birds, that you always have to have two in a cage. If one is by themselves they die from loneliness, you always have to have a pair. And I just thought that James Hunt, who was so gregarious and so social, but in a weird way was so isolated from the world, that the thing that he was drawn to and that the thing that he truly loved were these birds that couldn't be in isolation. That was such a symbol of companionship I kept writing about-- you know, Rod was going, are we going to hear another tune about the budgies? But that's what I kept writing about, that was my way into it. All that happens is, in the movie-- usually-- you're just in a snapshot. It's usually a fully-formed human being, unless it's some origin story or it's like a biographical story that starts off with a baby and all [? sort of stuff. ?] You're in this moment in time where something happens that sets all sorts of things into motion, and you have conflict, and you have-- So why is the character dealing with the conflict or whatever obstacle are being put into his way in that way? And the other part of it is, why is the character going on this journey in the first place? Is it becau...

About the Instructor

Hans Zimmer didn’t see a film until he was 12 years old. Since then, he’s scored over 150 films, including Inception, The Lion King, and The Dark Knight. In his MasterClass, the self-taught Academy Award-winner teaches how he creates sounds from nothing, composes compelling character themes, and scores a movie before ever seeing it. By the end, you’ll have everything you need to start film scoring.

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Hans Zimmer

From collaborating to scoring, Hans Zimmer teaches you how to tell a story with music in 31 exclusive video lessons.

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