One of the freshest and most inspiring composers to emerge in mainstream films in recent years, Michael Giacchino got his start scoring video games for DreamWorks based on films such as "Lost World: Jurassic Park" (1997), before moving on to write music for series such as "Alias" (ABC, 2001-06). Displaying an ear for evoking strong classic themes that still felt new and energetic, his first big break was the music for director Brad Bird's Pixar hit "The Incredibles" (2004), an ode to 1960s style James Bond themes and other classic adventures. J.J. Abrams tapped Giacchino to provide the unsettling music for his hit series "Lost" (ABC, 2004-10), famous for its single-note motifs and an aural style almost unheard of on television. His relationship with Abrams also led to his scores for "Mission: Impossible III" (2006), the closing credits music for the otherwise score-less "Cloverfield" (2008), and the assignment for the highly anticipated "Star Trek" reboot. But it was with his second collaboration with Bird on the lush and beloved "Ratatouille" (2007) that earned Giacchino his first Oscar nomination and widespread critical acclaim, ensuring both his place among film composers and the promise of a lengthy and fruitful career.
Giacchino was born Oct. 10, 1967 in Riverside, NJ. Like any other child, he spent his fair share of time watching movies like "Star Wars" (1977) and cartoons like "The Flintstones" (ABC, 1960-66) and "Jonny Quest" (ABC, 1964-65). By the age of 10, the young cinephile started making his own movies in his basement, using the kind of simple 8mm film camera that modern-day young moviemakers would find positively primitive. Undeterred by his crude equipment, the enterprising young filmmaker used toys and models placed atop a ping-pong table stage to shoot simple stop-motion movies, then syncing up his favorite movie scores to provide a soundtrack. After high school, Giacchino attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City, NY, where he earned degrees in film production and history. Upon graduation, he studied music composition at Julliard, while at the same time, working in publicity offices for Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Studios. He was later transferred to Disney's Burbank, CA lot, where he continued to work in publicity while studying and writing music. Unsure of how to break into scoring, Giacchino saw his first window of opportunity when he was transferred to Disney's emerging interactive division and started submitted scores for video games. Making contacts and continuing to write music whenever he could, Giacchino eventually moved to DreamWorks SKG's interactive division, where he got the chance to score pieces of music for the video game adaptation for "Lost World," which was played for Steven Spielberg. Recognized for his uncanny ability to evoke composer John Williams, Giacchino was next handed the job of scoring the 1999 game "Medal of Honor," inspired by "Saving Private Ryan" (1998). The video game work eventually led to his first live action assignment, "Semper Fi" (NBC, 2001). Originally intended to be a series, the project was turned into a made-for-cable television movie, but still began to open doors for the young composer.
One of Giacchino's early admirers was television producer and director J.J. Abrams, who was such a fan, that he contacted Giacchino directly by email, asking to meet him. The successful get-together led to a job on the Jennifer Garner television vehicle "Alias." Giacchino managed to persuade Abrams to allow for a full orchestra instead of a synthesizer - an increasingly rare practice in series television. His work on the show brought him to the attention of filmmaker Brad Bird, a highly admired director of "The Iron Giant" (1999), one of Giacchino's favorite films in recent history. Bird was putting together the superhero opus "The Incredibles," and with its emphasis on vintage movies, cartoons and comic books of the 1960s, had originally sought out John Barry, the veteran composer behind the James Bond series. When Barry declined out of lack of interest, Giacchino stepped up, seeing immediately what Bird had in mind. The resulting score - like the rest of the colorful film - evoked the "cool" adventure of 007 and the Pink Panther series of movies, with a heroic fanfare accompanied by a sleek, jazzy theme still modern enough to connect with a young contemporary audience. His efforts earned two Grammy nominations and a fan following as well.
Giacchino's working relationships with Abrams continued with another high-profile project, the hit series "Lost," the story of the survivors of a plane crash onto a seemingly deserted tropical island with vaguely supernatural elements and other mysterious inhabitants. Steeped in mystery with clear inspiration from "The Twilight Zone" (CBS, 1959-1964) - another favorite of Giacchino's - the show made good use of the composer's efforts at creating a sense of unease and suspense, utilizing eerie sounds more than melodies. With strange plucks of the strings, shimmering sounds of indeterminate origin, and a signature, one-note fall-off from a trombone that accompanied many of the shows cliff-hanger moments, it was the rare contemporary television series with a soundtrack as memorable as the show itself.
Giacchino continued to be in demand, with 2005 being one of his busiest years yet, moving on to live action feature films like "Sky High," a light-hearted family movie about an academy for superher s, but also branching out into new territory with the score for the witty, tongue-in-cheek Christmas comedy-drama, "The Family Stone." That same year, he returned to his cartoon-loving roots, with music for the Joseph Barbera theatrical release of the Tom and Jerry feature, "The Karateguard" and for the ABC television movie, "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz." He also scored music for Disney's revamped Space Mountain theme park ride. Continuing to impress Abrams, Giacchino was offered his first chance at a big-budget summer action movie with "Mission: Impossible III." Movie score critics and fans alike praised Giacchino for successfully integrating the classic themes from the original television series, written by composer Lalo Schifrin, into his film score. He also scored the closing credits theme entitled "Roar!" in the Abrams-produced monster movie homage, "Cloverfield."
Giacchino would earn his first significant critical acclaim on his second outing with Bird, the lush and beloved "Ratatouille," the story of a sewer-dwelling rat with aspirations to be a chef, who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a lowly kitchen worker in a French restaurant. Forming a clever partnership, the two outcasts take the Paris culinary world by storm. A gamble with its seemingly grown-up-oriented world of cooking, food critics, and souse-chefs, "Ratatouille" opened below expectations, but steadily built a following by strong word-of-mouth, grossing over $600 million worldwide, and earning an Academy Award nomination for best animated film. Giacchino, himself, was nominated for Best Original Score, which included a main theme song, "Le Festin," performed by French singer/songwriter Camille. With his mainstream but varied musical styles - as well as his ongoing working relationships with some of the most talented and prolific filmmakers in the business - Giacchino's career remained among the most promising of a new breed of film composers. Even more impressive, Giacchino was given the task by Paramount Pictures to score their reboot of the "Star Trek" (2009) franchise. Returning to animation, he wrote the score to the acclaimed "Up" (2009), which earned the composer a Golden Globe win for Best Original Score, as well as an Academy Award in the same category. Later in 2010, Giacchino earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series for his work on the popular and acclaimed "Lost" (ABC, 2004-10).