Film composer Hans Zimmer will bring scores of favorites to Atlanta concert

Film buffs and music nerds instantly coo with respectful excitement at the name Hans Zimmer.

Casual followers of entertainment might not immediately recognize his name, but reciting a litany of just a smattering of his creations as a film composer answers any quizzical looks: “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Thelma & Louise,” “Pearl Harbor,” “Sherlock Holmes,” “Gladiator,” “Inception,” “Interstellar,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Hidden Figures” and, of course, his major triumphs – “The Lion King” and the Christopher Nolan-era “Batman” movies (“Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises”).

Zimmer, the award-winning German film score composer, is most often found in windowless studios. But this spring in Los Angeles, he launched his first-ever U.S. tour, a gushingly received production (he was a standout at Coachella) that finds him and dozens of musicians — many who played on the original scores — performing nearly three dozen songs from 17 of his film scores.

Earlier this week, the witty and loquacious Zimmer checked in from a “day off” in Los Angeles to discuss his career and live show, which comes to Verizon Amphitheatre on Tuesday.

Zimmer will be joined by about 60 musicians on stage. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)

Q: The first shows you played on this tour were called “Hans Zimmer Revealed” and now it’s “Hans Zimmer Live.” Is this a different show than the ones from a few months ago?

A: The show has evolved a little bit. I have no idea who came up with the original title. I thought, “Doesn’t it sound like a strip act?” and the title just shifted. There are some shifts and changes in the show, which really has to do with confidence. There were two crazy ideas (at the beginning of the tour in April) — to do the warm-up show in Los Angeles, where everyone is critical of you, and from there we went to Coachella. The (Coachella audience) didn’t know what to expect and we didn’t know what to expect.

Q: And how was Coachella?

A: Curiously, by sheer whatever, fate I suppose, it turned out to be a fantastic event for us. That gave us confidence and we’ve worked certain things out. We suddenly realized we had broken out of the pigeonhole of film music, which was my secret, secret hope — to break down the walls. At Coachella, people realized what we did was an experience.

Q: Are you taking the same big cast of players with you on this leg of the tour?

A: We have 60-odd people on that stage. I’ve spent so many years alone in the studio; don’t you think I deserve to have 60 of my closest friends with me? (Laughs)

Q: How many instruments do you play onstage?

A: Oh, I don’t know (starts counting) … banjo, bass, synth … five or so. It’s such fun. I play with a lot of feel and very little technique, but I’m surrounded by people who have extraordinary technique. People forget that a composer isn’t necessarily a performer. I write that stuff, and when you write, you do it just on the edge of play-ability. I am the one saddled with having to practice my own parts!

Zimmer plays several instruments on stage, including piano, guitar and banjo. Photo: Getty Images.

Q: I understand there are no visuals from the movies when you’re performing their respective songs. Why did you make that decision?

A: I did that on purpose because … what I’ve always tried to do with music is to say I’m opening a crack in the door, but letting you have an emotional experience. I’m not telling you what to feel, but giving you the opportunity to feel something. I’ve seen these other shows where there is an orchestra and the scene of the movie is above. What happens is, if the movie is any good, I can’t remember there is an orchestra there and I just want to watch the movie! So I literally want to put the spotlight on the music so you make your own movies in your head.

Q: You’ve worked with some pop stars, like Pharrell and Johnny Marr. What is that like compared to the other musicians you’re usually working with?

A: They’re some of my closest friends, first and foremost, but working with them, there’s a simple economics to it — they can’t afford me and I can’t afford them, so when we work together, we’re excited about a piece of music and we just want to go into the studio and make music. We start at an early age learning how to be playful, and the operative word in music is play. It’s happened when Pharrell will stop by and we’re talking about something serious and in about 10 minutes we’re working on a track for a movie or something. There’s something really good when you have people who are really great at what they do. The ego-driven part isn’t there, except you know there is a hole to be filled and you have to be fast on your feet and the adrenaline is rushing. I remember sitting there one day looking at Johnny and Pharrell and thinking, “There’s Johnny Marr from the Smiths and the man who just wrote ‘Happy’, and it’s perfectly harmonious.” One of the great luxuries I have is I’m the guy in the middle who gets these guys in the same room.


Hans Zimmer

8 p.m. Tuesday. $35-$125. Verizon Amphitheatre at Encore Park, 2200 Encore Parkway, Alpharetta. 1-800-745-3000,

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About the Author

Melissa Ruggieri
Melissa Ruggieri
Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for the AJC. She remembers when MTV was awesome.