The fact that Nirvana’s seminal acoustic track ‘Something in the Way’ became a sort of overarching theme that hung over Matt Reeves’ The Batman is a great example of how music can set a particular tone for a film. Whether a story is comical, introspective, mysterious, bombastic, or gut-wrenching, the right musical cues can elevate the audience’s understanding of a character and their situations like few other elements can.
Paul Dano also hopped onto the Nirvana train while crafting his version of The Riddler for The Batman, telling NME that in the script Matt had actually mentioned ‘Something In The Way’ by Nirvana,” Dano explained. “So that right there, that song, those words, that refrain, became hugely important to me. Nirvana became a part of that [character].” Set under a bridge next to a flooded river, Reeves adopted a similar setting for the climax of The Batman, with Dano channelling his own interpretations of the song into his modern media-centred terrorist.
It wasn’t the first time that Dano had looked to music to find his inspiration either. In a 2012 interview with Vulture, Dano explained which artists he turned to in order to get into character for the Oscar-winning films Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood.
“It’s all about what’s going to serve the mood, the vibe, the scene,” Dano said. “Like for Little Miss Sunshine, I listened to Rage Against the Machine, Pavement, and Elliott Smith. For ‘There Will Be Blood,’ I was listening to a lot of The Clash, and a lot of Radiohead. I mean, Jonny Greenwood did the score, but that wasn’t why I was listening to Radiohead. No Kelis. No “Milkshake!” [Laughs] I certainly was not playing that in my headphones.”
Dano also discussed the bands that helped him work through his then-recent projects, including the 2012 films Ruby Sparks and For Ellen. For the film I did this summer, He Loves Me — though we’re changing the title [to Ruby Sparks] — I was listening to a lot of Bon Iver, Paul Simon, Ray Charles, and The Rolling Stones. And sometimes I put on Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, and Otis Redding, just to get my blood bubbling.”
“That might have nothing to do with the character, or maybe it does,” Dano adds. “For this film at Sundance, For Ellen [in which he plays a deadbeat dad rocker], a lot of Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, and some hard rock that I don’t like necessarily but was good for the character.”