Country Artist Stuart Takes 'Horses' Reins

This appeared in Variety - January 19, 2001

Marty Stuart had been working on Billy Bob Thornton's debut album when, out of the blue, he was asked to take a look at "All the Pretty Horses," a Miramax/Columbia Pictures film starring Matt Damon and directed by Thornton. The request surprised Stuart, as he believed that Grammy-winning producer Daniel Lanois had recently finished the film's soundtrack.

"I had worked with Billy Bob on the score for a film called "Daddy and Them" (co-starring Laura Dern and set for release later this year), and one day he asked if I would consider contributing music to the film," says Stuart, himself a three-time Grammy-winning country music artist. "He said he was having some trouble with Miramax accepting Daniel's music and wanted me to add my music while trying to keep some of Daniel's."

Expecting to merely add a handful of songs or cues to a largely finished soundtrack created by Lanois, Stuart wound up musically reinventing the wheel, writing songs and score for the entire film. (Just two Lanois-penned tracks remain on the final soundtrack, which comprises 25 cues and songs.)

As Stuart, along with collaborators Kristin Wilkinson and Larry Paxton, set about creating the music, they hoped it would help tell the tale of a young cowboy who travels from Texas to Mexico and experiences life and love in a strange land.

"I knew it had to be unique and classic at the same time in order to do such a familiar and well-told story," Stuart recalls. "I didn't want the music to be stereotypical and twangy, like Country Music 101. But it also needed to be true to the film Billy Bob created."

Even Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein offered his thoughts. "He suggested it be classic Hollywood music, like from Elmer Bernstein, complete with that grand score," Stuart recalls.

Since "horses" was only Stuart's fourth film assignment, he was open to suggestions. But he also had his own take: "I thought, 'How about John Ford with mushrooms in his pocket,' " Stuart says with a chuckle. "There were moments that needed absolute grandness, a big score, and other times it was quirky or just campfire music."

The effort paid off. Stuart and his team were nominated for a Golden Globe Award for original score in a motion picture, the film's solo nom from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

"When I look at that (nominations) list, I think, 'Man, you're kidding.' Look who's on that thing." Stuart is competing in the category with such film music legends as Hans Zimmer (co-scorer, "Gladiator"), Tan Dun ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), Maurice Jarre ("Sunshine") and Ennio Morricone ("Malena").

Stuart, who recently put his 28 years of high-octaine performances on hiatus to write and produce for himself and other artists, will regroup with Thornton in the coming months to finish recording the actor's studio album.

"We really struck paydirt," Stuart enthuses about the session he had with Thornton last year. "It was like Leonard Cohen with a beat, Southern Gothic, yet mysterious and accessible. I'm looking forward to getting back into it. Billy Bob's got great musical instincts and folks are going to be pleasantly surprised when they hear it."

By Adam Sandler

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