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How Junkie XL Brought the 'Deadpool' Soundtrack to Life [Exclusive]

Nobody blasts apart baddies like Deadpool, and nobody scores bloody shootouts like Junkie XL.
February 16, 2016, 2:30pm
Image from the film Deadpool. Photo credit: Joe Lederer. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Who’s that foul-mouthed superhero in the red spandex shooting bad guys and talking directly into the camera? That’s Ryan Reynolds as the titular star of Deadpool, which spent the weekend smashing opening weekend box-office records for R-rated movies. The new super/anti-hero phenomenon boasts inimitable dialogue, big action set pieces, and an amazing score by Tom Holkenborg, a.k.a, Junkie XL. Holkenborg, the Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum producer, musician, and composer, got his start in the big beat scene of the late 90s, went on to be the first person ever to officially remix an Elvis Presley song, and now finds himself on the forefront of modern film scoring. From his bombastic, drum-filled Mad Max: Fury Road score to his creeping compositions for the Johnny Depp-starring Black Mass, Holkenborg creates daring new takes on traditional movie compositions. In an exclusive video below, Holkenborg talks bringing together disparate musical cues and genres to create Deadpool’s synth-heavy signature sound.


Tom Holkenborg, a.k.a., Junkie XL, in the studio. Photographed by Dirk Kikstra

Holkenborg tells The Creators Project how he was brought on to create the movie's “funky, arrogant, playful, violent music score”: “I was approached by the director, Tim Miller, and funny enough, he was raving in the 1990s in clubs in New York, and he loved my music back then. When he found out I was doing movie scores, and especially after seeing Mad Max, he was like ‘I’ve got to talk to this guy.’” After watching the movie with the director, producers, and Ryan Reynolds, Holkenborg says he couldn’t believe how funny it was, “It was hilarious. I didn’t know what to expect but it was so completely funny and it completely took me by surprise.”


Image from the film Deadpool. Photo credit: Joe Lederer. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

“I analyzed the movie, I watched it five times, ten times, before I even started. Just to think like ‘Okay, what am I looking for here?’ And what I found was that the character stopped growing up after 1990. All his musical references are before that, he’s got a Walkman from 1983, even the suit that he made was from that time period. So I started to think I need to do something from the 80s. And I own a lot of these synthesizers that were made back in the day, and I went to great lengths to find special effects boxes that were made at the time that make the music sound the way it does.” When he finally found the right sound, Holkenborg called the director and said, “‘I think I’ve found it. It’s going to be Frankie Goes to Hollywood meets Michael Jackson meets Miami Vice… but on speed.’”


Cover to the Deadpool Soundtrack

Holkenborg says Deadpool was one of the most difficult projects he’s ever worked on because in any given scene, the emotional range could change four or five times, “I often get the question ‘Which emotion is the hardest to score?’ None, they’re all easy. The problem starts when they ramp up in quick succession. From sad to angry? That’s easy. But from sad, to an utterly funny moment, back to sad, then to angry, then to insecure, back to sad, and then comedy—all in 50 seconds? It’s like ‘Okay, I’ve got to think about this for a second.’”

Though Deadpool is already performing beyond even the most optimistic expectations, Holkenborg knew they were on to something amazing. “Working on movies like Mad Max and Deadpool, you feel when you’re working on it like ‘Man, this is special.’ And you hope the audience is picking up on it. And they did, they did massively.”


Peer into Junkie XL's process for scoring Deadpool in the video below, exclusively on The Creators Project:

Catch up with Deadpool in theaters now and pick up the soundtrack on iTunes now and in stores March 4th.


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