"MARIO NASCIMBENE: THE INNOVATIVE USE OF SOUNDS"
A Conversation with Mario Nascimbene by Claudio Fuiano © 1986/2010
Originally published in Soundtrack Magazine Vol.5/Nos.20/1986
Text reproduced by kind permission of the editor, Luc Van de Ven and Claudio Fuiano
Claudio Fuiano: There have been many rumours about who actually scored EL CID. Please tell us what really happened. Was the music you wrote actually used in the Italian print of the film?
Mario Nascimbene: I’ve just read Miklos Rozsa’s autobiography, and I’m glad for the opportunity to clear up things once and for all. At a certain place in his book, he says that he was called to Malaga to score the film, because producer Samuel Bronston didn’t like the work done by the Italian composer, and wanted him replaced. This, of course, is Rozsa’s version (Rozsa’s a composer I like very much), but he only knows what Samuel Bronston (a person I don’t hold in high esteem) told him in the first place. Robert Hagiag was the co-producer of EL CID in Italy at the time (I had already scored ROOM AT THE TOP for him, which starred Simone Signoret) and he knows the real story.
Bronston called me and asked me to score EL CID, which was being shot by Anthony Mann. I read the screenplay first, and they told me to write some dance themes only. The music had to accompany a kind of fighting dance for scenes taking place on the beach, so I wrote some cues for tympani, with a rather brutal, violent rhythm, without any real melody. Director Mann liked what I had written and shot his scenes, using the cues as background.
Then, when shooting EL CID was about halfway, I was asked to come to Malaga to discuss the score itself. Samuel Bronston met me there when I arrived, showed me a pile of records of Massenet’s ‘El Cid’ and told me: “This is the music for the film”. Apparently I had to sort of “adapt” Massenet’s music for the film. Samuel Bronston behaved in an offensive way, and I told him that I am used to discussing the score with a director, and with him only. So I returned to Rome, where I tore up the contract already made.
As a result, Bronston phoned Rozsa, told him that he disliked my music, and asked him to score the movie instead. This was an absurd statement, since at that time I hadn’t yet written any themes for the film, only some dance cues for the beach scenes! (Later I heard that these were apparently used in the finished film). The picture was an Italian-American coproduction, so my name was removed from the credits and replaced by Miklos Rozsa’s.