Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner and Erica Schmidt on the music for ‘Cyrano’ – The Process – Deadline

In recent years, composers Aaron and Bryce Dessner have found a unique challenge in Cyrano, marking musical adaptations of Edmond Rostand’s classic piece from 1897 Cyrano de Bergerac first for the scene, then for the screen.

Bryce says that when Erica Schmidt first approached him with her brother to work on his musical, starring husband Peter Dinklage and Haley Bennett, he was “a little bit incredulous” about the prospect. “It was exciting, but also just impossible to imagine,” he recalls in the latest edition of The Process from Deadline. “It was also at a point in our career when it wasn’t like at the top of the list [to make] A musical.”

What changed Bryce’s mind about attending the show, later performed at both the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut and the Daryl Roth Theater in New York City, was attending a live reading of the script. . “It was really beautiful,” he said, “and I think this experience of hearing [Erica’s] version of it really convinced me.

After finding “a really rich artistic collaboration” with Schmidt on his first outing to the theater, he and Aaron would reinterpret the score and songs designed for Cyrano, for a musical drama of the same name directed by Joe Wright. The MGM and United Artists Releasing film marking Schmidt’s first produced screenplay centers on Cyrano de Bergerac (Dinklage), a poet and swordsman who falls in love with a woman named Roxanne (Bennett) but is too shy to pursue her. After discovering that she has feelings for a soldier named Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), Cyrano decides to help their budding romance by writing love letters which he sends to Roxanne.

Aaron and Bryce Dessner are two of the multi-instrumentalists at the heart of The National, the Grammy-winning indie rock group led by Matt Berninger. The Cincinatti natives began composing for film less than a decade ago and had their biggest year in this arena yet with the recent release of Mike Mills’ A24 photo. go! Go on, and the next one Cyrano.

Schmidt notes that the songs designed for the latter, with lyrics from The National’s Berninger and Carin Besser, were not intended to be “propulsive,” as is the case in many musicals, but rather to be “intimate. And ‘reflective’. Ultimately, she says, they became the “heartbeat” of the play, harnessing the universal fear of being impossible to love.

“It was actually what poetry is, that kind of window to the soul,” she says. “Instead of composing for the public, or showing off, [the music was] much more moving.

“It’s possible that the songs actually have something more in common, maybe closer to an opera… in terms of how the songs serve a narrative,” adds Bryce Dessner. “They really take that poetry and breathe it in a different way.”

While the film version of Cyrano was developed over two or three years, it will eventually come to life during the Covid-19 pandemic. For Schmidt and Dessners alike, working on the project served a similar purpose, giving artists cut off from their usual means of expression (live theater and touring, respectively) an outlet they were sorely lacking.

Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Guy Heeley produced Cyrano, with Schmidt, Berninger, Besser, Aaron Dessner, Sarah-Jane Robinson, Sheeraz Shah and Lucas Webb in executive production. The film premiered at Telluride and hits theaters in Los Angeles on December 17, expanding to select theaters nationwide on January 21.

In conversation about The Process, Schmidt and his musical collaborators reflect on his momentum to adapt Cyrano, the transformation of his songs as they moved from stage to screen, the experience of working with the London Contemporary Orchestra, the trip to Colonial Williamsburg which sparked the Dessners’ interest in music, the birth of The National in August 1999 and more.

Check out their full conversation above.

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