Metallica isn’t exactly the first band that comes to mind when thinking about Disney music. However, it’s a collaboration that actually happened. The iconic band’s drummer, Lars Ulrich, recently revealed how he and the band came into collaborating with James Newton Howard on the music for Disney’s upcoming Jungle Cruise movie. The movie stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Emily Blunt.
Metallica are thrash metal pioneers, while Disney is a family-friendly institution. The band, who in their younger days were nicknamed Alcohollica, probably would have been kicked out of Disneyland back in the day. But, a lot has changed in their older years as they have families and kids now. Still, how did the Jungle Cruise collaboration become a reality? Lars Ulrich explains the origins behind the project.
“It really goes back to [Disney production president] Sean Bailey, who is a lifelong rock fan, and is just all-around one of the greatest, most friendly, generous, warm, and embracing people you’ll find in the music business. I think he’s always been a Metallica fan, and we’ve gotten to know each other well. My wife and I are big Disney fans, so there’s a great friendship there, and he’s always looked for the right match where there was a way that Metallica could contribute to some project of theirs. This was the right fit, with Sean leading the calvary, and with James Newton Howard and his track record, and what he’s done.”
After Metallica received the details, they were excited to work on Jungle Cruise with composer James Newton Howard. The composer has been nominated for 8 Academy Awards and is considered to be one of the best in his field of work, which is also where Metallica are in their line of work. Naturally, the pairing got along famously. Lars Ulrich explains.
“James Newton Howard, the man, the myth, the absolute legend! Considering what’s he’s done, it’s an absolute honor to have done this with him, and we’re excited for the world to hear it. It’s kind of an interesting morph, because it’s kind of – and I don’t want to give too much of it away – but it’s a very unusual morph in that it’s kind of his arrangement of ‘Nothing Else Matters’ that we’re playing. We wrote the song, but he took the song and rearranged it to fit something specific in the film – and obviously, I’m not going to give any of that away – but we then kind of took on his version of it. I think that’s all that should be said.”
Metallica just released their second live album with a symphony orchestra, S&M 2, so they’re no stranger to reworking their songs. Plus, their songs have been used in a number of movies over the years, though, from what Lars Ulrich is saying, this is going to be much different from anything they’ve ever done in the past, which means there had to be a lot of trust involved. You can read what the drummer had to say about the Jungle Cruise collaborative process below.
“I got a chance to meet James before we did this, and he’s such a generous, collaborative spirit. And the director, Jaume Collet-Serra, is a Spanish gentleman who has obviously made some incredible films, and Metallica has also been part of his journey. So it was a very natural fit, and as you know… film is a very collaborative medium, and for somebody in a band, one of the many things I love about the creative process of film is the collaborative element. So when you look at our association with this film, the first word that comes to mind is ‘collaborative,’ between Sean’s vision and James Newton Howard’s vision and Jaume’s vision. Obviously, The Rock has been very supportive. Dwayne has been very supportive, and it’s a really cool thing to be a part of. I can’t wait for everybody to see it.”
In addition to the release of S&M 2, Metallica recently shot a “live” concert at a winery near their headquarters in Northern California (no audience was in attendance). The band took the performance, mixed it, and broadcast it to drive-in movie theaters all over North America, giving their diehard fans the best version of a concert that can currently be delivered. Metallica is always at the forefront of figuring out new ways to interact and expand their audience, so the concert was a great success. Now, those same fans can look forward to a new version of their classic song “Nothing Else Matters” coming from the Jungle Cruise soundtrack. The interview with Lars Ulrich was originally conducted by Collider.