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I'm calling this countdown series the "last" one simply because, given how long it's taken me to finally get around to it -- and with the one-column false start in November of 2013 -- I honestly doubt I'll get around to doing another one. Frankly, if I get this one finished I will have impressed myself, but then I'm easily impressed. Especially by myself. On the upside, this is planned to be a ten-column series, so get ready for a lot of reading (or not reading; it's entirely up to you).
2011 RANKING: Not ranked
AGE: 38
BIRTHPLACE:  Nottingham, England
REPRESENTATION: Gorfaine/Schwartz
BACKGROUND: Cambridge, rock programmer-arranger-musician, programmer for Trevor Jones, music editor for Howard Shore
TYPECAST IN:  Science-fiction
1. Gravity--274 (U.S. gross in millions)
2. Fury--85   
3. The World’s End--25  
4. Attack the Block--1 
Steven Price may have scored his first film only five years ago, but he’s been gainfully employed in the film music world for two decades. His first credit was as a music mixer on the Irish drama Trojan Eddie, released when he was only 19, and within a few years he was working for such major composers as Trevor Jones (as a musician and programmer) and Howard Shore (as music editor on the final two Lord of the Rings films). After more than a decade of dues paying, he received his first feature scoring credit on Joe Cornish’s critically acclaimed first-film, the low-budget sci-fi thriller Attack the Block. He had already worked with Block executive producer Edgar Wright, serving as music editor and additional composer for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Price graduated to principal composer for Wright’s next film, the comedic Quatermass homage The World’s End. That fall his career moved into a whole new realm with Alfonso Cuaron’s visually groundbreaking Gravity. Along with rave reviews and blockbuster box-office, Gravity managed to win a whopping seven Oscars including one for Price’s original score -- an impressive achievement for a composer so early in his career, and an unusual one in that Price’s work on the film largely eschewed melody in favor of a more soundscape-oriented approach. He wrote a comparatively more thematic score for 2014’s impressively crafted World War II adventure Fury, but his hoped-for entry into the field of blockbuster superhero movies fell through when Edgar Wright left his long-in-development Ant-Man, replaced by director Peyton Reed (and composer Christophe Beck). His next feature project has yet to be announced, but so far he’s got a 4 to 1 movie-to-Oscar ratio (as well as a Grammy for his contribution to Adele’s album 21), and that’s nothing to sneeze at...since I first wrote this (but before it was uploaded), Price has been announced to reunite with Fury director David Ayer for the highly anticipated graphic novel adaptation Suicide Squad, so a good case can be made that he should be ranked above #40 on this list, but someone's too lazy to rework the list, and I suspect it's me.

WHAT'S NEXT: Suicide Squad 
2011 RANKING: 34 
AGE: 38
BIRTHPLACE: Chicago, Illinois
REP: Fortress Talent Management
BACKGROUND: Rock musician
RELATIONSHIPS: James Gunn, Rob Zombie
TYPECAST IN: Comic book/graphic novel adaptations
1. Guardians of the Galaxy--333  
2. 300--210
3. Watchmen--107
4. The Day the Earth Stood Still--79
5. Dawn of the Dead--58
6. Halloween--58
7. John Wick--43 
8. You Got Served--40
9. Sucker Punch--36 
10. Halloween II--33  
In 2006 Bates scored screenwriter James Gunn’s directorial debut, the cult favorite monster comedy Slither, and after reteaming for the low-budget “real” superhero dark comedy Super, the pair’s third collaboration, the Marvel comics adaptation Guardians of the Galaxy proved to be one of 2014’s most popular films as well as a critical smash. While Guardians showed Bates working in a more conventional orchestral vein than most of his earlier work, this comparatively mainstream sound could possibly open him up to a wider variety of projects. He had another (but more modest) hit in 2014 with the stylish Keanu Reeves action vehicle John Wick, sharing the scoring credit with composer-guitarist Joel J. Richard (and as with Guardians, a sequel is in the works). With A-lister Hans Zimmer on board, Bates didn’t have the chance to resume his ongoing collaboration with director Zach Snyder on the megabudget Man of Steel or the upcoming Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but he managed in recent years to break out of the horror/thriller niche with Emilio Estevez’s comedy-drama The Way, as well as scoring such diverse projects as the attempted reboot of the Conan franchise and William Friedkin’s stylish Killer Joe. While Bates hasn’t been as active lately in features as one might expect, given the enormous success of Guardians (and the haunted plane thriller 7500 has been in a holding pattern since it was filmed four years ago), he’s stayed plenty busy in episodic television, following the long-running Californication with two current shows, Kingdom and Salem.
2011 RANKING: 21
AGE: 64
BIRTHPLACE: New York, New York
REP: Kraft-Engel
RELATIONSHIPS: Frank Darabont, Gary Fleder, Scott Hicks, Gavin O'Connor, Gina Prince-Blythewood
BACKGROUND: Jazz & classical trumpeter (for San Francisco Opera Orchestra, bands), Windham Hill recording artist
1. 42--95   
2. Save the Last Dance--91
3. Eight Below--81
4. Dolphin Tale--72   
5. Blade--70
6. Miracle--64
7. Rules of Engagement--61
8. Kiss the Girls--60
9. The Lucky One--60 
10. Invincible--57
Isham still has yet to score the kind of true blockbuster that could take his film scoring career to the next level, and even his most recent (and biggest) hit, the well-regarded Jackie Robinson biopic 42, failed to hit the precious hundred-million-mark at the U.S. boxoffice. His recent feature output has been typically eclectic, with the last few years seeing such varied projects as the music industry drama Beyond the Lights, the underrated Jason Statham thriller Homefront, and his second Nicholas Sparks romance, last year’s pleasant The Longest Ride. He’s been making a bigger splash for himself lately in television, scoring the revisionist fairy tale hit Once Upon a Time as well as its short-lived spinoff Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, while he moved into more adult TV-territory with John Ridley’s critically acclaimed series American Crime. Upcoming projects include a sequel to the Isham-scored remake of The Mechanic, the comedy The Great Gilly Hopkins and the thriller The Accountant, which reunites him with Miracle director Gavin O’Connor.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Accountant, Fallen, The Great Gilly Hopkins, Henry Joseph Church, Mechanic: Resurrected, Papa, Septembers of Shiraz
2011 RANKING: 28
AGE: 41
BIRTHPLACE: Duisberg, Germany
REP: Gorfaine/Schwartz
BACKGROUND: Musician in Germany and Boston, music studies at Berklee College of Music, Media Ventures, additional composer for Klaus Badelt
FAN FAVORITE: Game of Thrones
1. Iron Man--318
2. Clash of the Titans--163
3. Safe House--126
4. Pacific Rim--101
5. Open Season--84
6. Dracula Untold--55  
7. Blade: Trinity--52
8. Red Dawn--44
9. The Unborn--42
10. Mr. Brooks--28
HBO’s long-running Game of Thrones, scored from the beginning by Djawadi, has consistently earned the kind of critical and audience attention that would be the envy of any big-screen fantasy. Two of his films in recent years were among his highest grossing films – the Denzel Washington thriller Safe House was one of its star’s biggest box-office hits, and Guillermo del Toro’s eye-popping homage to Japanese monster epics Pacific Rim managed to hit the hundred-million mark, but his only major feature release of 2014-2015 was the revisionist origin ish' Dracula Untold, which did only modest business. While both Game of Thrones and del Toro’s vampire TV series The Strain seem to be keeping him plenty busy, on the feature front he has two big-scale films lined up -- Moon director Duncan Jones’ video game adaptation Warcraft (one hopes that this is the first game-based film that is genuinely good) and Zhang Yimou’s period mystery The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Great Wall, Warcraft
AGE: 37
BIRTHPLACE: United Kingdom
REP: Fortress Talent Management
BACKGROUND: Composer for British television, videogames
TYPECAST IN: Thrillers
1. The Man from U.N.C.L.E.--45  
2. Steve Jobs--17  
3. The Counselor--16
For those convinced that high-profile composing assignments inevitably go to the familiar names like Desplat, Elfman, Howard and Zimmer, Daniel Pemberton is here to prove you wrong. Pemberton’s first feature to get any kind of U.S. release was the underrated period ghost story The Awakening, starring Rebecca Hall and Dominic West, but he worked regularly in television, including a four-episode series based on Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently books, and he also scored the Nick Frost comedy Cuban Fury. His relative obscurity in the U.S. made him a surprising choice to score Ridley Scott’s all-star thriller The Counselor, and his droll music was one of the controversial film’s many assets. This summer saw the release of the Pemberton-scored, Guy Ritchie-directed retro-styled feature version of The Man From UNCLE, but more importantly, this fall he scored one of the year’s most critically acclaimed films. Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s unusually structured take on the life of Steve Jobs, with the story told in three lengthy sequences shot in different formats, suggested an equally offbeat musical approach and Pemberton was given unusual freedom in conceiving the score, with the 1984 and 1998 segments reflecting the electronic music possibilities of their era, while the middle section (1994) takes its cue from both the opera house setting and the Machiavellian plotting with a more classically styled approach. In this age of blockbusters aping the Hans Zimmer sound while indie films settle for droning and twanging, it’s rare to find a film composer having license to make such unusual stylistic choices, and while the film has proved to be a box-office disappointment (and earned only two Oscar nominations), Pemberton’s contribution is likely to make his name stand out for filmmakers looking for music that doesn’t take the expected paths. His latest project is the British miniseries Prey.

2011 RANKING: 17
AGE: 59
BIRTHPLACE: Burbank, California
REP: Kraft-Engel
RELATIONSHIPS: Brad Anderson, Jon Favreau, Mel Gibson, Garry Marshall, Cyril Nowrasteh, Ivan Reitman, Brian Robbins, Joshua Michael Stern
BACKGROUND: Orchestrator, TV composer
FAN FAVORITE: Cutthroat Island
TYPECAST IN: Family fare, comedies
1. The Passion of the Christ--370  
2. Iron Man 2--312
3. Bruce Almighty--242
4. Liar, Liar--181
5. Elf--173
6. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water--162  
7. Chicken Little--135
8. The Pacifier--113
9. Spy Kids--112
10. Valentine's Day--110
While Debney has been as prolific as ever in both film and television in the last few years, he had his first blockbuster hit in a long time earlier this year with the inventive animation-live action hybrid The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. In the last few years he’s still frequently working on light comedy projects, particularly the films of director Garry Marshall, but he seems to be making a concerted effort to vary his profile with recent thrillers such as The Double and Alex Cross, and most satisfyingly with the little-seen, underrated Gothic horror of Stonehurst Asylum, the kind of project one could have imagined once pairing Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee with a James Bernard score. Most often associated with a traditional orchestral approach, he’s been varying his sound in everything from the thriller The Call to the romantic comedy No Strings Attached, and took an unexpectedly modern and unconventional approach for the miniseries biopic Houdini. His upcoming projects encompass a variety of genres and reunite him with past collaborators – Garry Marshall’s ensemble comedy Mother’s Day, Jon Favreau’s live-action-and-CGI-mixed remake of The Jungle Book, and Mel Gibson’s World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge.
WHAT’S NEXT: Hacksaw Ridge, The Jungle Book, Mother's Day, The Young Messiah

2011 RANKING:  Not Ranked
AGE: Unavailable 
REP:  Kraft-Engel
RELATIONSHIPS: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, Glenn Ficarra & John Requa
BACKGROUND:  Songwriter, member of band DeVotchKa (vocals, guitars, piano, trumpet, theremin, bouzouki)
TYPECAST IN:  Quirky comedy
1. Cray, Stupid, Love.--84
2. Paddington--76 
3. Focus--53
4. Love the Coopers--26  
5. Ruby Sparks--2 
6. I Love You Philip Morris--2
7. The Joneses--1
8. What Maisie Knew --1
Danny Elfman’s history as a member of Oingo Boingo demonstrated that a background in rock was no hindrance to a career as a top film composer, and Urata’s rise is a direct result of his background in popular music. Urata is a co-founder of the musical ensemble DeVotchKa, and their music first received cinematic attention when directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris used it in their Oscar-winning indie hit Little Miss Sunshine, which also featured an original song by the group. Urata’s first high-profile scoring assignment was on the fact-based comedy I Love You, Philip Morris, but despite the presence of stars Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor and the attention-getting subject matter (a gay con man), the film made barely a dent at the box-office. The indie films The Joneses, Father of Invention and Virginia came and went with little notice, but he had his first major studio hit (and still highest-grossing film) with Crazy Stupid Love, a shared scoring credit (with Christophe Beck) which re-teamed him with Philip Morris directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra. He continued to focus on smaller-scale indie projects, like the divorce drama What Maisie Knew and the offbeat fantasy comedy Ruby Sparks, which reunited him with Sunshine directors Dayton & Faris. The last twelve months have seen the released of his highest-profile solo projects -- the charming family film Paddington, the underrated Will Smith con man romance Focus (his third Requa/Ficarra picture) and the just-released Christmas comedy Love the Coopers. He just scored his fourth Requa/Ficarra feature, the imminent Tina Fey comedy Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (previously titled Fun House), as well as the Amazon pilot Highston created by Nebraska screenwriter Bob Nelson.
UPCOMING:  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

AGES: 50/47
BIRTHPLACES:  Mercer, Pennsylvania/London, England
1 OSCAR (each)
The Social Network
RELATIONSHIPS: David Fincher, Allen Hughes (Ross only)
BACKGROUNDS: Reznor: childhood studies in piano, tuba, saxophone; Allegheny College (computer engineering); recording engineer; founder and principal member of Nine Inch Nails; record producer; Ross: Music programmer and producer, collaborator with Nine Inch Nails, TV composer
FAN FAVORITE: The Social Network
TYPECAST IN:  Thrillers
1. Gone Girl--167  
2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo--102  
3. The Social Network--96 
4. The Book of Eli--[Ross only]
5.  Broken City--19  [Ross only]
6. Love & Mercy--12  [Ross only]
7.  Blackhat--7 [Ross only]
8. Triple 9--6 [Ross only] (as of 2/28/16)

Given that Atticus Ross has a successful film scoring career on his own, it may not seem fair to link him with Trent Reznor for this list, but it’s their collaborations that have really put both men on the map in the film music world. The Social Network earned the team the 2010 Oscar for Original Score, one of the most offbeat scores to ever win the award from the Academy, and their two followups for director David Fincher, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl, were even bigger box-office hits, with the latter proving to be the director’s highest grossing film yet and the composing team earning rave reviews for their work, which took a more melodic approach compared to their earlier Fincher scores. While so far Reznor only seems to score films when Fincher is involved (and the director hasn’t had a new film go into production since 2014’s release of Gone Girl, though there were rumors of a Strangers on a Train remake that would reteam him with Ben Affleck), Ross is managing to keep busy without him. He had two major projects last year, Michael Mann’s cyberthriller Blackhat (on which he shared the principal composer credit with Harry Gregson-Williams, who was unusually public with his dissatisfaction over Mann’s mix-and-match approach to film scoring) and the Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy, where his inventive interpolations of Wilson’s music earned him praise from mainstream film critics. And while Reznor has announced there will be new Nine Inch Nails music this year, Ross has scored his latest film (with frequent collaborators Claudia Sarne and Leopold Ross, plus British musician Bobby Krlic, aka The Haxan Cloak), the crime drama Triple 9, led by an impressive cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor and Kate Winslet.

WHAT'S NEXT: Triple 9 [Ross only]

2011 RANKING: Not ranked
AGE: 47
REP:  First Artists
RELATIONSHIPS:  Jay & Mark Duplass, Jake Kasdan, Nicholas Stoller
BACKGROUND:  Rock songwriter-performer (Elgin Park, Metric, Greyboy Allstars), TV composer (Freaks and Geeks)
FAN FAVORITE:  Donnie Darko
TYPECAST IN:  R-rated comedy
1. Bridesmaids--169
2. The Heat--159  
3. Neighbors-- 150  
4. Daddys’ Home--148 (2/28/16)
5. Bad Teacher--100 
6. Tammy--84   
7. Funny People--51
8. Orange County--41
9. Sex Tape--38  
10. Dirty Grandpa-- 35 (2/28/16)
While comedy scoring used to be the province of more traditionally styled composers like John Debney and Marc Shaiman, a new generation of film composers comes from a remarkable variety of disciplines. Michael Andrews may have received his first major feature credit on the cult favorite mindbender Donnie Darko, but since then he’s almost exclusively been associated with comedies, particularly those from stars and filmmakers associated with current comedy auteur/mogul Judd Apatow. Having worked frequently with writer-director Paul Feig – their collaboration goes back to TV’s cult hit Freaks and Geeks – it was a little surprising that Andrews wasn’t brought on for Feig’s latest hit collaboration with Melissa McCarthy, last summer’s Spy (Theodore Shapiro got the job, and is also doing Feig's upcoming Ghostbusters), but maybe Feig felt someone with more of a background in pastiche-style scores was needed. Nevertheless, he’s managed to score at least one comedy smash hit in each of the last three years – Feig’s The Heat in 2013, Neighbors (for regular collaborator Nicholas Stoller) in 2014 and the recently-released Daddy’s Home – and while none of them were exactly composer showcases, having so many big hits always looks good on a composer’s resume. He returned to high concept/low comedy for the just-released Dirty Grandpa, and for indie stalwart Mark Polish he’s scoring the thriller Headlock, and it won’t be a big surprise if he returns to score Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Breaking news: it's just been announced that Andrews will be scoring this year's topical suspense drama Money Monster, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts and directed by Jodie Foster.
WHAT’S NEXT: Headlock, Money Monster
2011 RANKING: Not ranked
AGE: 37
BIRTHPLACE: St. Louis, Missouri
REP: Kraft-Engel
BACKGROUND: Studied piano and composition at Southern Oregon University, University of Oregon, Portland State University, assistant/co-composer for Mychael Danna
FAN FAVORITE: The Age of Adaline
TYPECAST IN: Romance, comedy
1. The Age of Adaline--42 
2. (500) Days of Summer-- 32 
3. The Way Way Back--21
4. Burnt--13
5. Foxcatcher --12 
6. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World--7 
7. The Spectacular Now--6
8. Wish I Was Here--3
9. Girl Most Likely--1
Simonsen had his first scoring credit on the little-seen 2003 medieval fantasy Westender (whose score was released on CD last year by Keepmoving), but it was his longtime collaboration with composer Mychael Danna that helped launch him into the big leagues. Beginning in 2004, he worked with Danna -- as an assistant, arranger and eventually additional composer -- on such major projects as Being Julia, Little Miss Sunshine, The Nativity Story and Surf’s Up. Danna and Simonsen shared the principal scoring credit on the little seen Jennifer Aniston/Steve Zahn comedy Management and the indie favorite (500) Days of Summer, which is still one of Simonsen’s biggest boxoffice hits. His first major solo score after his Danna partnership was for Andrew Jarecki’s true-crime-inspired drama All Good Things, starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst; while Jarecki’s film received only a limited release after a lengthy post-production period, it (and Simonsen’s score, released on CD in 2014 by Caldera) is likely to receive new attention since Jarecki returned to the same true story for his high-profile documentary miniseries The Jinx. Since then he’s largely specialized in romance and comedy, including the underrated Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, the deservedly acclaimed The Spectacular Now, and the Sundance hit The Way Way Back. His most critically acclaimed film to date has been 2014’s multi-nominated Foxcatcher, but the scoring credits were unusually complicated on that film, with Simonsen receiving the principal credit, West Dylan Thordson (just recently the co-composer of Joy) cited for additional music, and Mychael Danna credited for “Valley Forge theme.” Last year Simonsen had his biggest box-office hit with the surprisingly enjoyable The Age of Adaline, whose mixture of romance, fantasy and era-spanning storyline was an ideal musical showcase. Last fall he had the star-laden restaurant comedy-drama Burnt and Roland Emmerich’s critically trounced gay history drama Stonewall, and upcoming projects include the Zach Braff-directed remake of the ‘70s geriatric caper comedy-drama Going in Style, this time to star (of course) Alan Arkin, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.
WHAT’S NEXT: Going in Style, The Master Cleanse, Viral
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Comments (1):Log in or register to post your own comments
Sorry to hear that this may be the last series, Scott, but I'm really glad to read it anyway. You bring an interesting industry perspective to ranking our heroes that seems to have a little more basis in fact than personal preferences. Not that artistic merit doesn't matter either, but dollars certainly register with the folks making assignments.

I look forward to the next installment!

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July 19
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