Composer Lorne Balfe Talks His Score For TERMINATOR GENISYS – We Are Movie Geeks


Composer Lorne Balfe Talks His Score For TERMINATOR GENISYS

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Paramount Pictures’ and Skydance Productions’ TERMINATOR GENISYS led the worldwide weekend box office race earning a combined total of $102.7 million in 46 countries plus North America.

Directed by Alan Taylor, GENISYS returns to the Oscar winning Terminator franchise to take familiar characters in a new direction. When John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance, sends Sgt. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and safeguard the future, an unexpected turn of events creates a fractured timeline. Now, Sgt. Reese finds himself in a new and unfamiliar version of the past, where he is faced with unlikely allies, including the Guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger), dangerous new enemies, and an unexpected new mission: to reset the future.

TERMINATOR GENISYS is written by Laeta Kalogridis & Patrick Lussier and produced by David Ellison and Dana Goldberg. The franchise has two more films scheduled to be released in 2016 and 2017.

Grammy winning composer Lorne Balfe has created an action-packed, emotive score for TERMINATOR GENISYS.

Left to right: Emilia Clarke plays Sarah Connor, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the Terminator, and Jai Courtney plays Kyle Reese in Terminator Genisys from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

Lorne Balfe is a Grammy Award winning, Emmy and BAFTA nominated film composer from Inverness, Scotland. His recent credits include Dreamworks Animation’s HOME starring Rihanna, Jim Parsons and Steve Martin, Dreamworks Animation’s THE PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR, and “Manny,” a documentary about the life of boxer Manny Pacquiao which premiered at SXSW. Other composing credits include the animated film MEGAMIND and Ubisoft’s acclaimed game, “Assassin’s Creed III.”

Balfe began his career in Hollywood providing additional music on several major motion pictures including the second and third installments of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, “Iron Man,” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”

He provided additional music and was the score producer on 2008′s THE DARK KNIGHT, which earned him a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture. In addition to being named Discovery of the Year at the World Soundtrack Awards in 2009, he was also the score producer for Guy Ritchie’s SHERLOCK HOLMES, which earned a 2010 Oscar nomination for Best Original Score. In 2011, he produced the score for Christopher Nolan’s INCEPTION, which also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score.

With the movie building from 1991’s TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, including shot-for-shot recreations, Lorne Balfe’s score honors the tradition of the past Terminator films by adding bold, new music to fit the action while tapping into the film’s emotional core as it explores themes of freedom and guardianship.

Prior to the film’s release, the composer and I spoke at length about the feelings of TERMINATOR GENISYS and getting the music right for the fans.

WAMG: I’m such a huge fan of the series and I felt this latest chapter was a lot of fun.

Lorne Balfe: It’s not as bad as the reviews, is it?

WAMG: There’s so much to like about it – especially seeing that Arnold Schwarzenegger is having such a good time being back in the role.

LB: I finally saw it again two nights ago and I’d forgotten what a fun film it is.

It’s funny when you read a review and you wonder if they thought they were going into THE KING’S SPEECH.

WAMG: As you were writing the score did you ever stop and think, I am composing for a TERMINATOR film!

LB: No and the weirdest thing is once I started, and it happened so quickly, that if I’d spent any time thinking about that, I probably would have had a heart attack and panicked. I wouldn’t have gotten a single note written.

It’s only now when you get asked these things you then start analyzing it and going, goodness sake! The most important thing about TERMINATOR is that I knew, especially coming from the world of video games and those type of franchises, how important it was to get it right for the fans.

I had to be respectful to that famous theme. It’s almost been forgotten in the previous two movies. It’s not a sequel or a prequel and the music had to be loyal to the franchise. And there has to be new music. When you see Arnold on screen as The Terminator, and he’s kicking ass, I want to hear, “Ba, da, bum, bum, bum.”

That’s the challenge with these things. When the new STAR WARS trailer came out, and you heard John Williams’ theme, you got excited.

WAMG: Fans will appreciate the main theme from Brad Fiedel’s iconic TERMINATOR score.

LB: There’s naturally an industrial world, so I kept with the main theme of the original TERMINATOR. They were very electronic sounds. I used the fantastic sonic sounds from TERMINATOR 2 – at that time, they must have been amazing! I don’t think I fully appreciated that at the time, but now I do.

There’s something about it being organic and manipulating it with the sounds. This is a different kind of TERMINATOR and each film has been different.  It’s not meant to sound strictly like a TERMINATOR score. There are scenes which are identical to the original and musically I did it exactly the same. I scored it as close as I could possibly get it. The storyline moves on and John Connor character is different. That had to now thematically have this heroic, military type theme. There are lots of things that are different.


WAMG:  I especially like the FATE and HOPE Track. It begins very simply and then explodes into an epic score – I loved the grandness of it, especially the percussion section. Once it again it ties together the emotional story of TERMINATOR.

LB:  To me, the world of TERMINATOR has always been that metallic world. It’s very difficult when writing music like that. You’ve got metal up on the screen so you don’t put as much metal sounding motifs in your score.

The score contains everything but the kitchen sink. It’s a hybrid score, and although there are these massive action cues, there is a hell of a lot of emotion. The score needed to be much more personal to match the progression of the movie’s character development and convey the relationship between Sarah Connor and the Terminator. We spent a lot of time on that father/daughter theme.

Alan (Taylor) and David (Ellison) in a way really wrote that track. The payoff of the sacrifice at the end tied with the “FATE and HOPE” track, it was their point of view regarding the film. I tried to write the theme for that track a few times and I never nailed it. What makes it fun is at music college, they could explain why that piece of music doesn’t work. Whether it’s right or wrong, it doesn’t matter. They’ll analyze it and start going through your harmonic structures and changes.

When you work with a producer and a director, they don’t necessarily know how to describe things in a musical sense – they describe feelings. When somebody writes a piece of music for scene, it hits you or it doesn’t. There’s no point holding onto if it doesn’t – it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, you’ve got to move on. More time was spent talking about the theme for “FATE and HOPE.” I regard more as an emotion, than a theme. That’s when we found we were able to bring back the TERMINATOR theme in a very simple manner with the piano and just the three notes.

hans and lorne

WAMG: How did you get involved and what was Hans Zimmer input as executive producer?

LB: I worked for Hans for about 10 or 11 years and now I work with him. We’ve done the TV shows “A.D” and “The Bible.” I got involved after someone heard my music and Hans’ studio is right next to mine.

WAMG: That’s convenient.

LB: Yes, when its two o’clock in the morning and you’re stuck on a cue, people walk in and out of rooms. You get advice and that’s the interesting thing about working in that kind of studio complex. As composers, we spend so much time alone, locked in a room, and when you have a building with lots of composers, you kind of wander around and talk because everyone is going through the same kind of problems – even if it’s a different film.

I’m working on HOME, which is animation, and Junkie XL is next door to me working on MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, it is all the same problems everybody is trying to figure out. But you realize you have to get your game up when you do listen to everyone else’s scores.


WAMG: Producer David Ellison has said, “This is the largest scale Terminator movie that’s ever been made.”

With that 800 lb Terminator sitting in the room, how did you go about scoring for the big action sequences in GENISYS?

LB: When you start writing for a scene, especially for a film of this size, things aren’t finished and as a composer, you have to have a really good imagination.

A lot of the visual effects aren’t necessarily finished, so there’s time to imagine what’s going on and of course, there’s a guideline. When the visuals change, the score changes because the color is different. That especially happens with animation. On HOME and PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR, I was on it for over a year and a half, and during that time it slowly evolved, you find that you don’t need to write as much because it will change.

With the action music, you never sit there and think, gosh, I’ve got to do big music because this is a big film. With TERMINATOR there was so much emotion and personally, I felt it was quite small and intimate.

You’re not supposed to notice the music all the time. Michael Kamen explained it best. He called it “underscoring.” I think that is such an important word – underscoring the action or the storyline.


WAMG: Do you find it easy to switch gears between animated films, such as HOME and PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR to a sci-fi movie like TERMINATOR GENISYS?

LB: Strangely enough, I find no difference at all. It’s the same gig. You’re trying to create something new. When you first sit down to try to figure out the sound and the melody of the film, you go through the same puzzles. Same as when I score for a game. There’s no difference.

A few months ago I did this commercial for FIJI Water. A 15 second commercial and it was just as hard as writing an hour of music for a film. With all the challenges, that’s what makes it fun.

WAMG: Did you make a set visit or have a look at the CGI beforehand?

LB: They wanted me to come down and be a body-double for Arnold. (laughs) Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get to go and I got brought on after they had started filming.

WAMG: I have no doubt when Arnold shows up in the film it will leave audiences grinning.

LB: When we saw it, and 1984 Arnold appeared, followed by the older Arnold, the whole place started cheering. It was fantastic. That one was a hard scene to score because you’ve got two Arnold’s fighting and it’s bigger than life with what you’re seeing.

Balfe is currently scoring the Paramount Pictures’ thriller CAPTIVE starring David Oyelowo and Kate Mara, releasing September 18, 2015. (Trailer)

CAPTIVE, based on a miraculous true story that drew the attention of the entire nation, is the dramatic, thrilling, and spiritual journey of Ashley Smith and Brian Nichols. After being taken hostage by Brian in her own apartment, Ashley turns to Rick Warren’s inspirational book, The Purpose Driven Life, for guidance. In reading from the book, Ashley not only finds purpose in her own life, but helps Brian find a more peaceful resolution to a harrowing situation.

WAMG: Have you finished the score?

LB: I have. It’s a great film and working on subject matter that’s a true story is always interesting. I’ve spent a lot of time on documentaries because they are real and with those score you can’t be too dramatic.

Working on CAPTIVE was fantastic.

Order the TERMINATOR GENISYS soundtrack here:


The film is rated PG 13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and gunplay throughout, partial nudity and brief strong language.


Images © 2015 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


Huge passion for film scores, lives for the Academy Awards, loves movie trailers. That is all.