Accessibility links

Conrad Pope Tells Marilyn Monroe Story Through Music

The new film "My Week with Marilyn" tells the story of a week in the life of the legendary film star Marilyn Monroe, who in the 1950s was in Britain making a film with the iconic actor Laurence Olivier. The task of composer Conrad Pope, who wrote the score for the new film, was to capture the era and tell the story in music.

It was 1956 and a young Marilyn Monroe was already a sensation. The sexy blonde is played by actress Michelle Williams.

Composer Conrad Pope was asked to score the movie's music.

On the set of "My Week with Marilyn," cast and crew recreated an earlier era, telling the story of a brief romance between Monroe and a young production assistant.

At his piano in Hollywood, Pope captured the feeling of each scene as he composed the film score, working from a theme song by French composer Alexandre Desplat. In the movie, pianist Lang Lang plays the theme and other parts of the score.

“Marilyn Monroe is of course this iconic figure and so this allows you to have all this very grand music. She's a very exuberant figure, at least the reaction she elicits from men. And so it allows you for some joyous music as well."

The film is based on the true story of Colin Clark, a member of the 1950s film crew, and his brief relationship with Monroe. Clark, played by actor Eddie Redmayne, gives the star a break from the difficulties of filming and from her troubled marriage to playwright Arthur Miller.

The film's score is inspired by the big band sound and the lush film scores of the 50s. Pope says it varies from scene to scene.

“You take a simple theme and you can put it through a lot of different guises, and that's what we've done,” he said.

Pope is a veteran arranger and conductor who has worked on dozens of major movies. As a composer, this is his biggest film score to date.

He says scoring this richly textured film was an ideal job.

“Yeah, I think for anyone that's a musician in Hollywood, it was kind of a dream project,” Pope said.

He says the music helps tell the story and lets viewers understand the brief and tragic life of the talented starlet, who died at the age of 36.