‘Bright’ Director & Music Supervisor David Ayer on Soundtrack’s Diversity
Netflix’s forthcoming blockbuster, Bright, holds a mirror to the issues prevalent in today’s society. The film, directed by Suicide Squad‘s David Ayer, hurls viewers into an alternate universe where elves, Orcs and complicated creature relations exist.
Will Smith plays Los Angeles police officer, Daryl Ward, and Joel Edgerton serves as his Orc cop partner—and first Orc deputy ever—Nick Jakoby. As the two pursue a magic wand (a source of an ancient, inter-elf beef), themes like the unfair treatment of Orcs and police brutality seep into the storyline. The movie’s soundtrack is also woke, with rapper Logic and Rag’n'Bone Man waxing poetic about starting from the bottom on “Broken People” to Bastille bringing poetry to the darkness in “World Gone Mad.”
Below, Ayer hopped on the phone for a quickie chat with TIDAL to discuss the Bright soundtrack’s diversity, Orcish music and whether Smith could have offered musical contributions to Bright.
You explore different themes from the treatment of Orcs and elves to Will Smith playing a police officer but what real-life events inspired the film?
It’s a fantasy allegory so it’s so fantasy-based, a work of fiction by [writer] Max Landis, and it was an original screenplay that he brought me on. He kind of wrote it for me as an homage to some of my films. Initially, I was just going to produce it, and I kind of fell in love with it during that process and wanted to jump on as a director. With the film, it’s an allegory about a lot of things going on in society today — the divisions, people coming to grips with diversity in today’s world or not, which is the problem.
From a musical standpoint, everything was very cohesive with the film because you have Logic doing a song like “Broken People,” which really gets the intro going, and then you have Ty Dolla $ign on a song like “Darkside” with Future and Kiiara, where he’s talking about oppression and dying for respect. How did you pick the artists and were these themes given to the artists beforehand?
Kevin Weaver, [who is president] of the Atlantic Records label, and I worked together on the Suicide Squad soundtrack together and had such a success with that. I reached out to Kevin and was like, ‘Hey, maybe we could do this soundtrack album again,’ and he just really opened up the roster of artists, and we really looked at who would be a great fit for the movie. Then it’s about presenting to the artist—these are the themes we’re looking at, this is what the movie’s about, this is what the world of the film is, and then giving them the opportunity to take that in and come back with something that’s really made for the movie and also tracking with the themes of the movie.
What made Bastille’s “World Gone Mad” the perfect soundtrack for the epic scene with Will Smith [no spoilers here!]?
Bastille just came back with that song, and the song was so strong. We used it as a score, which you can’t always do with contemporary music. It just fit perfectly, and it made sense for that moment. We got lucky because it doesn’t always work out that well. It was a pleasure to be able to tuck that song into that space.
Were there any special anecdotes behind certain songs? Maybe a scene that inspired a song or vice versa?
It’s so much work when you’re creating new music, and you hope it’s gonna work, you hope the songs are gonna come out good, you hope the songs are gonna be strong. I’m overjoyed with how everything came together. Not only did the songs fit the movie but as music going out into today’s world, they’re absolutely just beasts, and I’m real proud of the soundtrack. I think it’s going to have a long life. It’s funny ‘cause you’re just so in the trenches, working with Kevin, putting artists on, trying to put vocalists. He’s relentless, and we keep remixing and remixing. I just kept getting new and improved versions of the songs constantly.
Was there a mood board you both worked off of, like, “Let’s put A$AP Rocky and Tom Morello together”?
It’s just really figuring out a puzzle. There’s so many moving parts and these artists are like busy amazing, creative, successful people, and just arranging for them to get in a studio and lay a track is tough. Everybody came together on this. It’s a ridiculous roster but I love music, I love working with that community and it’s definitely been the best experience I’ve had.
Do you feel like Orcish music would have been mainstream if it existed today? How did the sound come about?
[Laughs] I don’t know. I guess if you’re in a death metal phase. It’s funny. The editor picked the song really early on when we were putting the movie together, and it just kind of stuck. It just made sense and it was a fun moment when everyone was dancing.
Was there any possibility at any point in the film to have Will Smith contribute to the soundtrack even though he’s the star of the film?
We’re always open to that, for sure.
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