‘The Fall Guy’ Interview with Composer Dominic Lewis

The Fall Guy is the newest action spectacular from Bullet Train’s David Leitch, and in so many ways, it is a love letter to movies and stunts. Starring Ryan GoslingEmily BluntAaron Taylor-Johnson, and Winston Duke, the film is a meta look at the physical business behind making movies. A huge part of that is music, and The Fall Guy has an incredible suite of music to accompany the on-screen action. Composer Dominic Lewis, who has worked on Bullet Train, Violent Night, and other notable projects, is the person behind the score. 

Over Zoom, we sat down with Lewis to discuss his work on The Fall Guy. The composer talked about working with David Leitch, how the two had a shorthand after working on Bullet Train, composing the love theme for the movie, and even that iconic KISS song featured in The Fall Guy. It was an enlightening conversation. Read on for the full interview. 

The Interview with The Fall Guy composer Dominic Lewis

[Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.]

Dominic Lewis: Thank you. That’s very cool.

Ayla Ruby: Okay, so you’re at South by Southwest. How’s it going so far?

Dominic Lewis: Well, we got in yesterday, so I haven’t really experienced anything yet. We got in late yesterday, so looking forward to it, first time.

On how Dominic Lewis ended up on the project

Ayla Ruby: Oh, cool. Can you talk about how you ended up on The Fall Guy? I know you have this working history with David Leitch.

Dominic Lewis: Yeah, so we did Bullet Train together, and actually whilst we were dubbing Bullet Train, towards the end of the dub, David said, “Oh, I’ve got this other movie. I want you to read the script,” and I loved it. We just started talking music and we were still doing Bullet Train, but Bullet Train was a long process. We both were just super excited to get going on the next one, really. I was going to do Violent Night in between that, because they were still in pre-production, so that’s obviously 87North as well. Do a lot of 87North stuff, so I was just happy to be a part of The Fall Guy. It’s so cool.

Ayla Ruby: That was a fun movie, too. I saw it at  [New York] Comic Con and I really enjoyed that.

Dominic Lewis: Yeah, it’s so fun, so fun. Yeah, Tommy [Wirkola’s] great. I’m very lucky I get to do cool stuff.

On merging music and story

Ayla Ruby: Okay, so you mentioned talking music. How does that work? You obviously are like, “Music is life,” right? How do you talk with someone whose life isn’t necessarily music? How do you have a conversation about a story and then merge those two things?

Dominic Lewis: Well, normally, yeah, there is a translator aspect to my job, but with Dave, I don’t have to.

Ayla Ruby: Oh, cool.

Dominic Lewis: Along with the fact that he just gets it, he has really great taste in music, and we are very aligned musically. We have the same kind of taste. I tend to older stuff. I’m not so much into the modern era. I think I was born in the wrong time. A lot of the really new stuff… I mean, I’m getting on, I’m 39 now, so I guess my grumpy old man stage is not too…

Dominic Lewis: My parents would always play The Beatles, Beach Boys, and all that stuff. So I’m very much in that world, old sixties, seventies, and so is Dave. So, we’re aligned anyway. Then along with the fact that he can talk about music and his trust in me, I think, is a big part because if it gets beyond his, not understanding, but if it goes more into the music territory that you need to know about all the different aspects of music, then it’s just like, “I trust you.”

Dominic Lewis: So on this one, talking about music, it was really specific early on because the early scripts had had KISS written into the script. The early versions of the script, their first date was at a KISS concert, and initially we were thinking, “Well, what if the score was all KISS songs, but done in a cool, cinematic way?” Eventually it just came down to one KISS song that is featured very heavily.

Ayla Ruby: I was Loving You, right?

Dominic Lewis: I Was Made for Lovin’ You. Yeah.

Ayla Ruby: Okay. Yeah, yeah. I Was Made for…

Dominic Lewis: So yeah, those initial talks were just like, “Can we use this KISS song? Should we use this KISS song?” I Was Made for Lovin’ You was always going to be in it because it was a love story. That’s the obvious choice. So yeah, the early talks were fun. We were just trying to figure out where we would go with it.

Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt in The Fall Guy - Movie Review
Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt in The Fall Guy. Image courtesy of Universal.

Ayla Ruby: Obviously, I haven’t seen the movie yet. I’m really looking forward to seeing it. But just from everything I’ve read, from the trailer, from everything, it feels like a very rock and roll, old school, just a big movie. Is that true? Does that translate into the score? And if so, how?

Dominic Lewis: Very much so. It is a huge rock and roll, bombastic, love action story. I think the most accurate way to describe it would be a love letter to film. It does pay homage to those bombastic rock and roll scores. And as I say, KISS is featured very heavily. It’s almost a theme. It has its own theme. It’s almost like The Fall Guy theme that runs throughout the movie, and then the song will pay it off eventually.

Dominic Lewis: But musically we just wanted to find that homage to all types of film music. I think that’s what makes the score really cool is that you’ve got elements of the eighties, you’ve got elements of the seventies, you’ve got newer elements, you’ve got elements of… Well, you’ve got the eighties elements that are more synth and rock based, and then you’ve got the eighties elements and the early nineties elements that are very orchestral ala Michael Kamen, not so much John Williams, but very orchestral stuff towards the end for the epic nature of it.

Dominic Lewis: Yeah, it’s all over the place, but in a very different way to Bullet Train. Bullet Train was all over the place with genre, and just someone’s flicking through the hi-fi, just going like, “Next song, next song, next song.” That shows my age, I said hi-fi. But yeah, so it’s very all over the place, but it feels more like one thing going throughout as opposed to constantly changing the channel.

On The Fall Guy theme 

Ayla Ruby: With Bullet Train, it was like every character almost had a theme.

Dominic Lewis: Yes, that’s true. Every character had a theme and almost had a genre, and then they would all blend towards the end. With this, you’ve kind of got my, what I call The Fall Guy theme.

Ayla Ruby: Is that…

Dominic Lewis: That’s not the KISS. And then you’ve got the Kiss stuff. So with that I took basically the opening riff and Gene’s bass line, and then mess with those things. Then the chorus melody, mainly in oohs or ums. So it was easy, so it wasn’t distracting from the movie. As soon as you start putting lyrics in stuff under dialogue and underscore, it pulls you out. So, those are the three elements of that.

Dominic Lewis: But then you had my main theme, if you want to call it my main Fall Guy theme, and then the love theme, which actually, going back to your first question, when we were talking about music really early on, Dave was like, “I really want an old school love ballad for this movie.” So I went away and I wrote this song that actually happens in the end credits.

Dominic Lewis: So the theme in that song ended up becoming the love theme. We tried and we tried and we tried to find a place for the song to have its moment in the movie, but it was so much of an homage that I think everyone was like, “We need to try and update this a little bit or go to something else,” but I was really happy that they put it in the end credits. But that was where the love theme came from. So you’ve got my main Fall Guy theme, and you’ve got the love theme, and you’ve got the KISS stuff, and that kind of is the fall guy pie, if you will, on this one.

Ayla Ruby: So in a lot of your stuff you’ve also done vocals, and I think that’s mainly in some of the animated stuff, but correct me if I’m wrong.

Dominic Lewis: No, I can’t help myself.

Ayla Ruby: Did you get to do any of that here in that maybe end love song or?

Dominic Lewis: I did, yeah. I did a lot of vocals on this. As I say, I can’t help myself, but we were also very lucky to work with YUNGBLUD on this, and he contributes to lots of different parts of the score as well. So that was really cool, and took the pressure off me for a bit. But yeah, I’m singing all over this thing.

On the YUNGBLUD cover in The Fall Guy

Ayla Ruby: So I read that, I think, YUNGBLUD did a cover of I Was Made for Lovin’ You in the film. Is that true, or can you talk about that?

Dominic Lewis: I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about that.

Ayla Ruby: I read it in Collider, so I don’t know.

Dominic Lewis: Okay. If you read it in Collider then I can probably… Yeah, so Universal and Dave brought on YUNGBLUD to do a cover, and then from that we decided we wanted to use it actually as score in a big moment, I’m not going to say what it is, in a big moment in the film. So then I took those elements and morphed it into more of what we needed for the film, adding orchestra, adding new elements, integrating the Fall Guy theme into that.

Dominic Lewis: So yeah, there’s two that exist, really. There’s his version and there’s my film version, and they’re both super cool. It was really fun to do that because I did a lot of that stuff on Bullet Train, the producing and the songwriting stuff, so initially I didn’t think I was going to get to do as much of that, but as always with Dave I ended up doing quite a lot of that, which is, I love it. That’s why it’s such a great relationship. He has such trust in me and he can throw me anything at any time. So, it was really cool.

On if anything from the suite of music didn’t make it into the movie

Ayla Ruby: Cool. Okay, so on Bullet Train again, I read that there was an orchestral version of the Thomas the Tank Engine song. I have a young kid, so that sounds really cool. Was there anything similar for this that didn’t maybe make it in? Or that…

Dominic Lewis: Oh, there was so much stuff that didn’t make it in. Real… The first few months of this was such an exploration in what was going to work because as well, Dave was trying to find the tone of the movie. So I was just getting dailies and getting the assembly cut, and trying to figure out from that what he wanted musically. And yeah, he was in Sydney, so it was hard to sort of…

Ayla Ruby: Oh, yeah.

Dominic Lewis: It was really difficult to narrow it down to what we wanted, but eventually we got to a really great place. But yeah, there’s a lot of stuff on the cutting room floor. I went super eighties to start off with, which I loved, but I get why they didn’t want to do it. It’s not set in the eighties and it felt like you were back in the eighties, but all that stuff’s on the cutting room floor. But it’s still cool.

On his process for composing the music for a film like The Fall Guy

Ayla Ruby: So I guess I’m curious. Okay, so you mentioned sometimes you get dailies and then you work with the different cuts, the assembly cut, the director’s cut and stuff. How does your process work for this, for making the different pieces of music? You said you started with the script. How does that all match up for you?

Dominic Lewis: Once I get the script, the brain starts moving and I start trying to think about what would be cool. Normally we have some sort of playlist going back and forth between me and Dave, and then even at the script stage I’ll jump in and start thinking of ideas. The first thing I did was the song on this one, the love song. Then I started moving into, I write suites of ideas.

Dominic Lewis: I wrote this whole Fall Guy radio thing that was just all my ideas just coming out in one suite. I think all of that is on the cutting room floor, but who knows? I could probably use it for some other stuff. We do that, we’ve done that on everything, and sometimes that’ll be a hit, sometimes that’ll be a miss, depending on how aligned I am at that point. On Bullet Train, the first suites I sent, they worked gangbusters, and Dave was playing them on set.

Ayla Ruby: Oh, wow.

Dominic Lewis: This one, I think, was just more complicated. There were way more moving parts. We weren’t in the pandemic. It was a little crazy, especially with him being in Sydney and me being in L.A. Once he got back, we were able to hone the tone that he wanted. So once he got back, some of the eighties stuff was still lingering around, and said, “No, we don’t want that.”

Dominic Lewis: And so we came back to KISS at that point and Dave was like, “I know it’s not the initial thing we wanted with it being everywhere, but what if it played, what if it was him? What if it was his theme, as if he was singing it in his head?” And the reason for KISS, which I haven’t said yet, the reason for KISS was that when we were initially talking about it, what is that ultimate combo of cool but super kitsch?

Ayla Ruby: Oh, that makes sense.

Dominic Lewis: We were trying to think of cool and kitsch, what other bands could you do? It’s like, “No, Def Leppard’s a little bit too on the cool side,” and then other bands were too on the cheesy kitsch side, and KISS was just this perfect mesh of just cool and kitsch. We actually went to a show at the Bowl and it’s theater, it’s perfect for this movie and for the tone of this thing. So, that’s where we landed. After, I was able to pivot with my stuff and the love theme and… I’m chatting a lot, but yeah, it was a long process to go full circle and to come back to KISS.

Ryan Gosling in The Fall Guy - Movie Review
Ryan Gosling in The Fall Guy. Image courtesy of Universal.

On what Lewis wants people to know about The Fall Guy

Ayla Ruby: Oh, that’s cool.  Are there any last things you want people to know about your score for the film, or just anything about it?

Dominic Lewis: No, not really. I’m just eager to hear what people think. I was really trying to take all my loves, all of film music, whether it was from the sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties, and just merge it all together. I think the TV show being an eighties TV show, or was it late seventies? I’m not sure when it came out, but just really trying to find a way of updating that love letter to film music. So it’s got everything in there, it’s got inspiration from all my heroes, whether it’s Michael Kamen, John Williams, Harold Faltermeyer, just any film composer you can think of that would be a hero, I’ve taken inspiration from that and just melded it into this, what I hope is a cool soundscape.

Ayla Ruby: Oh, that’s awesome. I can’t wait to hear it. Thank you so much for chatting.

Dominic Lewis: Thank you for inviting me on. I love it.

The Fall Guy is now in theaters.

Learn more about Lewis by visiting his social media, including his X @DomLewisMX and Instagram @DomLewisMusic.

You can learn more about The Fall Guy, including how to buy tickets, at the film’s website. 

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