For many musicians, it's a simple equation: An Oscar nod equals further
opportunity in Hollywood.
For Elliott Smith, it's not all that simple.
Having a soundtrack number nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy
Awards -- regardless of whether it wins -- undoubtedly opens
the doors for myriad film offers afterward. Smith, nominated last week for
Misery"(RealAudio excerpt) from one of the season's hit films
"Good Will Hunting," will surely receive such offers.
Just don't expect him to take them.
"In general, pop songs in movies are kind-of a drag," Smith said Friday by
phone from Sunset Sound studios in Los Angeles, where he's finishing work
on his fourth solo album. "Usually they come and go. A lot of movies have
a big rock song at the ending credits, and that's the signal to the crowd
that it's time to split. I guess there's a lot of movies with good music
in them -- but there's a lot more movies with half-assed music."
Smith, a quiet singer-songwriter who first made a name for himself in the
punk band Heatmiser, said he has no intention of recording more soundtrack
work. "I really liked this movie, and it's cool to have songs in it
because I think it's really good," he said. "But I don't have plans to get
onto any more soundtracks. This was kind-of an accident."
"Good Will Hunting" director Gus Van Sant ("Drugstore Cowboy,"
"My Own Private Idaho") -- who, like Smith, calls Portland, Ore., home
-- tapped the singer for an original film composition after he had already
added some of Smith's existing work to an early edit of the movie.
"I played him some things that were in early stages and we sort-of settled
on some of the music that was becoming that song," Smith said. "I was just
trying to see what happened and not do anything in particular, or else I'd
get all bogged down and I can't do anything at all. So it's sort-of an
impressionistic song. It's for the movie, but it's not from any one
Although he has accepted an invitation to perform "Miss Misery" at the
Academy Awards ceremony on March 23, for the moment Smith is concentrating
not on the Oscars broadcast but rather on completing his upcoming album.
The collection will be his first for the DreamWorks label after issuing three
for indie labels Kill Rock Stars (Either/Or, 1997 and Elliot
Smith, 1995) and Cavity Search (Roman Candle, 1994).
"It's almost totally done; we've been here for three or four weeks," Smith
said. "I think it's going to be called Grand-Mal, like the
seizure." So far, 17 songs have been recorded, with an eye toward keeping
12 for the final release.
Grand-Mal is shaping up to be a bit louder than last year's hushed
Either/Or, said Smith, who this time out played nearly all the
instruments, including piano, himself. In addition, Beck bandmate Joey Waronker played drums on two tracks.
"The plan is to have it come out toward the end of the summer," Smith
said. "The sooner, the better for me. Major labels want a lot of time to
make their plans and set it up to be a smashing success. There's more
cooks in the kitchen overall, but not with the recording."
Smith plans to tour extensively between the wrap on recording of the album
and its release, with outings scheduled for Japan, Australia and the
Eastern United States.
Meanwhile, though the blockbuster movie "Titanic" has been forecast by
some to lead the way in this year's Academy Awards ceremony, "Good Will
Hunting" will certainly receive its own share of the spotlight at the
March presentation, and not only from Smith's performance of "Miss Misery."
The film -- which tells the story of an intellectually gifted but misguided
young man -- also received nominations for Best Picture, Best Director,
Best Actor (Matt Damon), Best Supporting Actor (Robin Williams), Best
Supporting Actress (Minnie Driver), Best Screenplay (Ben Affleck and Matt
Damon) and Best Film Editing. [Wed., Feb. 18, 1998, 9