James Leavey's Sharing An Ashtray With... Lalo Schifrin


Lalo Schifrin


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  By James Leavey

The Hollywood composer (Bullitt, Mission:Impossible, The Cincinatti Kid, The Liquidator, The Four Musketeers,Buddy Buddy, Cool Hand Luke, Kelly’s Heroes, Dirty Harry, TheBeguiled etc etc!!!) pipes up from anti-smoking California.

JL: Where did you start smoking"

LS: I started smoking a pipe in my 20s, when Iwas a student at the Paris Conservatory.

JL: What do you smoke now"

LS: I smoke only pipes now - I did trycigarettes and cigars but I find the pipe more relaxing and moresuitable to my personality. 

JL: What's your favourite tobacco"

LS: ‘March 93’, by Dunhill.

JL: Where can a pipe-smoker light up inHollywood"

LS:  The ‘People's Republic of California’ hasa law in which it is forbidden to smoke in restaurants and publicplaces.  However, I am a member of a private club called the GrandHavana Room, which has a very good and comfortable atmosphere andexcellent French cuisine. Also, I smoke in my home and my friends'homes

JL: Which musician, or film director (or both!),alive or dead, would you love to share an ashtray with, and why"

LS: I would like to share an ashtray with thegreat Dizzy Gillespie, who was one of my mentors and one of thegreatest trumpet players in jazz history.  He also smoked a pipe andknew the most select pipe stores in the US and Europe.  When I wason tour with him, I remember buying pipes together at the duty-freeshops at the airports.  The film director should be Don Siegel, withwhom I worked on many films, including ‘Dirty Harry’ and ‘TheBeguiled’ - both with Clint Eastwood. Don Siegel was born in the USAbut studied and graduated in Oxford, England.  We used to smokewhile planning my music collaboration with him on his films.  

JL: Do you smoke your pipe while composing musicfor films"  If so, and if part of the process involves watching thesilent version of the movie on a screen in front of you, do you everhave a problem actually seeing the film

through the smoke"

LS: I usually do not smoke the pipe while I amwatching films, but I do smoke while I am composing, either at mydesk, or at the piano.  As a matter of fact, there are somedocumentary films and television interviews in which I am seensmoking frenetically while I am composing! 

JL: What kind of music do you like to smoketo"

LS:  Usually, I like to smoke to the music ofthe French impressionists, Debussy and Ravel, because their musicshould be listened to through the fog ...or smoke.  It helps toenhance their subtle textures.

JL: Of all the films or TV shows you have evercomposed for, which was the most smoker-friendly"

LS:  ‘Mission: Impossible’ was the most smokerfriendly.

JL: And which was the least smoker-friendly"

LS:  ‘The Amityville Horror’ was the leastsmoker friendly.....Actually, I have never experienced a nonsmoker-friendly film or television show.

JL: Have you ever conducted an orchestra withyour pipe"ì

LS:  When I first came to Hollywood, I didconduct some of my film and television scores while smoking thepipe.  In those days I was a ‘chain smoker’ of pipes!  Later on, Ijoined my fellow conductor colleagues’ protocol and I made an effortnot to smoke a pipe while conducting. However, now, no one isallowed to smoke at the studios.

JL: If there was a button that, once pressed,would remove pipe smokers from every film ever made, would you pressit"

LS: I would not press the button to suppresspipe smokers from every film ever made.  I cannot imagine SherlockHolmes without his pipe.  More recently, it would be very taxing totry to eliminate every pipe smoker from ‘The Lord of the Rings’. 


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