Previously known as a member of the group Oingo Boingo, Danny Elfman became an international award-winning film composer. Elfman, who was nominated for eight Grammys and three Oscars, is noted for his original composition for “The Simpson” (1989-2004, earned an Emmy nomination), Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004) and “Desperate Housewives” (show began in 2004, won an Emmy Award). The winner of over 20 BMI Film & TV Awards is also the close partner of director Tim Burton, with whom he rose to eminence through movies like The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Big Fish (2003), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Corpse Bride (2005).
“I get drawn to things that don’t make any sense, and I learned early on not to resist that.” Danny Elfman
Besides doing film scores, Elfman, whose musical influence was Bernard Hermann, recently composed a symphony titled “Serenada Schizophrana.” Considered a reflection of Elfman’s unconventional style, Schizophrana is characterized by its six movements: Pianos, Blue Strings, A Brass Thing, The Quadraped Patrol, “I Forget,” and Bells and Whistles.
Elfman tied the knot with actress Bridget Fonda on November 29, 2003, and has a son from the marriage. He is also the father of two daughters.
Knight of Oingo Boingo
Childhood and Family:
Daniel Robert Elfman was born on May 29, 1953, in L.A., to teacher Milton Elfman (died on June 4, 2001) and children’s books author Blossom Elfman. His brother, Richard Elfman (born on March 6, 1949), is a maker of “late-night cult movies” like Forbidden Zone (1980).
Spending much of his time in the local theatre, Danny eventually dropped out from the University High School in L.A. and moved with his brother to France. There, he became a street violinist and performed in a musical theatrical group. After traveling in Africa, Danny joined his brother’s new musical group, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo (later shortened to Oingo Boingo), with which he toured the nation and recorded some albums.
After a previous marriage, Danny had a relationship with screenwriter Caroline Thompson, who also worked on Edward Scissorhands (1990) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). He then married actress Bridget Fonda on November 29, 2003, with whom he has a son named Oliver (born in January 2005). Danny also has two daughters, Lola (born in 1979) and adopted Mali (born on September 24, 1984).
Comradeship with Burton
In France, Danny Elfman performed with his brother in an avant-garde musical theatrical group named Le Grand Magic Circus. He later moved to Africa, to countries like Ghana, Mali and Upper Volta, and explored various styles of music (including one called “Highlife,” which was influential to him). With his musical experiences, the musician returned to the United States and played music with The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, along with his brother and Steve Bartek.
Elfman’s first screen credit was as the composer and an actor in brother Richard’s cult hit film Forbidden Zone (1980). Also with Oingo Boingo, Elfman contributed the songs “Hold Me Back” and “Only a Lad” for Surf II (1984).
“We don’t even have to talk about the music. We don’t even have to intellectualize, which is good for both of us. We’re both similar that way. We’re very lucky to connect.” Director Tim Burton on Danny Elfman (in Breskin, 1997).
A year later, Elfman made his first orchestral film score, and his first collaboration with director Tim Burton, in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985). It was then followed by his main theme composition for the series “Sledge Hammer” (1986) and his score in Summer School (1987).
It did not take long for Elfman to win four BMI Film Music awards, each of which was for his work in Back to School (1986, wrote “Dead Man’s Party”), Beetle Juice (1988, also earned a Saturn nomination), Scrooged (1988) and Batman (1989, also received a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Score Album). The composer saw his fame catapulted even higher after providing the signature main theme for the cartoon show “The Simpson” (1989-2004), which won three BMI TV Music awards and received an Emmy nomination.
Elfman then gained his next BMI Film Music award and Grammy nomination for his effort in Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy (1990), continued his alliance with Tim Burton in Edward Scissorhands (1990, was nominated for a Grammy and a Saturn award), did the main theme song for the little-seen Pure Luck (1991) and had another BMI Film Music award for Batman Returns (1992). For Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Elfman took on multiple tasks as the lyricist and music composer, the associate producer, as well as a voice actor (the singing voice for Jack Skellington and the voice of Clown with the Tear away Face). Before long, his musical effort in Burton’s 3-D animation movie brought in a Saturn award and a Golden Globe nomination.
Following the series “Weird Science” (1994), the musician collected two Saturn nominations for his work in Dolores Claiborne (1995) and The Frighteners (1996). Elfman was also applauded for his award-winning musical score in Mars Attacks (1997, won a Saturn) and Mission: Impossible (1996, netted a BMI Film Music award).
Continuing the ongoing success, Elfman picked up his first two Oscar nominations after composing for Good Will Hunting (1997, also won a BMI Film Music award) and Men in Black (1997, also took home a BMI Film Music award and a Saturn award, as well as a Grammy nomination). Subsequent to Flubber (1997, earned a BMI Film Music award) and A Simple Plan (1998, received a Las Vegas Film Critics Society’s Sierra award), the instrumentalist wrote the atmospheric score for Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (1999) and collected a BMI Film Music award, a Saturn award, a Golden Satellite award and a Las Vegas Film Critics Society award nomination.
The recipient of the 2000 Fantasporto’s Special Career award was then seen on screen playing backwoods fiddler Tommy Lee Ballard in the Billy Bob Thornton-written horror thriller The Gift (2000). At the same time, Elfman still captivated moviegoers with his compositions in The Family Man (2000, brought home a BMI Film Music award), Planet of the Apes (2001, received a BMI Film Music award and a Grammy nomination) and Chicago (2002, was handed a BMI Film Music award and nominated for a BAFTA award).
Working in Sam Raimi’s comic book’s adaptation Spider-Man (2002), Elfman harvested a BMI Film Music award, a Saturn award, a Grammy nomination, and a World Soundtrack award nomination. He also brought home two BMI Film Music awards thanks to the acclaimed score in Men in Black II (2002) and Hulk (2003).
Still in 2003, Elfman scored Tim Burton’s fantasy movie Big Fish, which earned him the nominations for a Grammy, an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Broadcast Film Critics Association award. He later teamed up with director Sam Raimi in Spider-Man 2 (2004, gained a BMI Film Music award, a Saturn nomination and a Golden Satellite nomination), as well as with creator Marc Cherry in the well-known series “Desperate Housewives” (show began in 2004, won an Emmy and a BMI TV Music award).
Prolonging his partnership with Tim Burton, Elfman composed and provided his vocals for the Oompa Loompa Vocals in the Johnny Depp-starring Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), where he was nominated for a Grammy, a Saturn award and a World Soundtrack award. Not long after, the composer voiced Bonejangles in Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005) and received a Satellite award nomination for his score.
Elfman, who in 2006 composed the music for Howard Hall’s documentary film Deep Sea 3D, is set to be the score composer for Charlotte’s Web (2006) and The Sixth Element (2006). Besides providing the main theme for the now-filming The Simpsons Movie (2007), Elfman will also do the music in Meet the Robinsons (2007), The Kingdom (2007) and The Incredible Hulk (2008).