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Ottman, John (b. 1964)  
page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  

To give depth to the characters, Ottman sought to reveal the emotional difficulties that they experienced as individuals with exceptional gifts that caused them to be ostracized by the rest of humanity. In an interview with Jeff Bond, the composer explained: "All these characters have sadness in some way; not that the film is depressing, but I have to go with empathy for these characters."

For each character, Ottman devised a distinctive theme. Thus, for example, for the religious and kind Nightcrawler, he devised a profoundly spiritual theme with sweet, gentle undertones, whereas he created a darker theme to indicate the potential for evil in Pyro.

Ottman utilized a similar approach in Tim Story's Fantastic Four (2005) and its sequel, Fantastic Four, The Rise of the Silver Surfer (also directed by Story, 2007), providing individual themes for each of the primary characters and interweaving them in the course of the narrative. Based on Marvel comic books, these films conventionally would have been scored in a more lighthearted way. Instead, for these films, Ottman created melodic, richly symphonic music that not only enhances the action but also makes viewers aware of the frustrations and loneliness experienced by the characters.

Ottman demonstrated his ability to create music of epic grandeur in his work for Singer's Superman Returns (2006). Because John Williams' score for Superman (1978) has been accorded iconic status by film music critics and fans, Ottman regarded Superman Returns as his most difficult and stressful assignment.

Ottman paid tribute to Williams by retaining his theme for the title sequence, but he composed nearly two hours of highly original music for the rest of the movie. For action sequences, Ottman managed to create action themes that are at least as exuberant as those produced by Williams, while featuring more complex orchestrations. In accord with director Singer's emphasis on Superman's frustrated love for Lois Lane, Ottman also devised many haunting melodies that eloquently express unrequited longing.

Ottman justly considers his music for Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) to be one of his most significant achievements, along with Incognito. For this tragicomic neo-noir mystery, he developed a jazz-influenced score that recalls--but does not imitate--such classic scores of the 1960s as Henry Mancini's Charade (1963) and James Barry's The Ipcress File (1965). Complementing the shifting moods of the movie, Ottman's cues are alternately comic and dramatic. However, he consistently infuses the score with wistful undertones that add profound emotional depth to the film.


In conveying a "longing tone" in his scores, Ottman seeks to acknowledge the isolation and other difficulties experienced by gay people in a world. His insistence on "scoring against the grain" can also be regarded as an affirmation of his identity as a gay man.

Because he creates melodic scores that enhance narratives, Ottman is regarded as the heir of Jerry Goldsmith and other leading film composers of earlier generations. However, his music is not imitative, and it is distinguished by great emotional and orchestral complexity. Still a young man, he undoubtedly will continue to develop his music in exciting ways in the coming years.

Richard G. Mann

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More Entries about The Arts

   Related Entries
arts >> Overview:  Film

Since cinema began, Hollywood has been fascinated with finding ways of representing homosexuality.

arts >> Overview:  Film Directors

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual film directors have been a vital creative presence in cinema since the medium's inception over one hundred years ago.

arts >> Overview:  Film Noir

Queer characters were a crucial component of the film noir landscape, part of the genre's challenge to complacent American values.

arts >> Overview:  Horror Films

The monsters of horror films may frequently be read as mirrors of societal views of homosexuals as predatory, amoral, perverse, possessed of secret supernatural powers, and threatening to "normal life."

arts >> Overview:  Music: Classical

Classical music is an important component of Western culture to which glbt people have contributed significantly.

arts >> Overview:  Music: Popular

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons have had tremendous influence on popular music, though some musical genres have been more receptive to a homosexual presence than others.

arts >> DeGeneres, Ellen

No matter how great her contribution to the world of comedy, Ellen DeGeneres will probably be best remembered as the first lesbian to star as a lesbian on her own network television show.

arts >> McKellen, Sir Ian

Arguably the finest Shakespearean actor of his generation, Ian McKellen was the first British subject to be knighted after publicly revealing his homosexuality, an event that proved more controversial within the gay community than in the mainstream.

arts >> Singer, Bryan

Film director and producer Bryan Singer overturns standard narrative formulae and develops complex characters; he consistently emphasizes the fluidity and ambiguity of identity categories, including those pertaining to gender and sexuality.


Bond, Jeff. "Call Forth the Mutants." Film Score Monthly 8.3 (March 2003): 22-23, 32.

_____. "Ottman vs. Superman." Film Score Monthly 11.6 (June 2006):

_____. "Review of Apt Pupil by John Ottman (RCA Victor CD)." Film Score Monthly 3.10 (December 1998): 30.

_____. "Review of Goodbye, Lover by John Ottman (Milan CD)." Film Score Monthly 4.5 (June 1999): 38-39.

_____. "Review of Snow White: Portrait of Terror by John Ottman (Citadel CD)." Film Score Monthly 3.9 (October/November 1998): 35-36.

_____. "Tight Situations: John Ottman Stretches with Fantastic Four and Superman Returns." Film Score 10.3 (May/June 2005): 17-19.

Burlingame, Jon. "They Shoot, He Scores (and Snips); John Ottman Does Double Duty as Editor and Composer on X2." Los Angeles Times (May 4, 2003): E29.

Comerford, Jason. "Review of Incognito by John Ottman (RCA Victor CD)." Film Score Monthly 3.3 (March/April 1998): 46.

_____. "Slicing and Dicing of a Horror Score: The Rescoring of Halloween H20: An Investigative Report." Film Score Monthly 4.5 (June 1999): 26-30.

DesJardins, Christian, ed. Inside Film Music: Composers Speak. Los Angeles: Silman-James, 2006.

Dretzka, Gary. "Apt Pupil's Film Editor Knows the Score." Chicago Tribune (October 11, 1998): Arts and Entertainment Section, 8.

Foster, Jason. "Review of The Cable Guy by John Ottman (Promotional CD)." Film Score Monthly No. 76 (December 1996): 19-20.

Hensley, Dennis. "Homicidal Hyphenate: He Shoots! He Scores! He Edits! Director-Composer-Editor John Ottman Demonstrates Killer Skills in Urban Legends: Final Cut." The Advocate No. 821 (September 26, 2000): 59.

Jackson, Blair. "Multitasking Hero." Millimeter 34.5 (June/July 2006): 34-35.

Jenkins, Christopher. "Review of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Warner Bros. CD)." Film Score Monthly 11.1 (January 2006):

Joy, Nick. "Review of Eight Legged Freaks by John Ottman (Varese Sarabande CD)." Film Score Monthly 7.9 (November 2002): 34-35.

Kim, Jae Ha. "How the Right Composer Can Make a Movie Sing." Chicago Sun-Times (July 23, 2003): Features, 47.

Koehler, Robert. "Singer's Backup Musician." Variety (October 21, 1998): Special, 2.

Koppl, Rudy. "Chasing the Light Fantastic: Fantastic Four: John Ottman with Director Tim Story, Creator Stan Lee, and Producer Avi Arad." Music from the Movies No. 47 (2004): 18-27.

_____. "The Man of Steel Returns: John Ottman and Bryan Singer." Music from the Movies Nos. 50/51 (2006): 40-51.

Lasowksi, Robert. "Movie Music to Composer;s Ears." Florida Times Union (Jacksonville) (July 21, 1999): 6, 6.

Newman, Melinda. "Six Questions with John Ottman." Billboard 118.28 (July 15, 2006): 32.

Ottman, John. "John Ottman: Projects, News, Biography." (June 28, 2007):

Serinus, Jason Victor. "John Ottman: A Conversation with the Film Score Composer and Editor of Superman Returns." Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity 13 (July 3, 2006):

Shapiro, Mike. "John Ottman: The Usual Suspects." Film Score Monthly No. 62 (October 1995): 9-11.

_____. "The Lost Issue: Composer Guy: John Ottman Talks about the Cable Guy and Other Hazards of Being a Film Composer." Film Score Monthly Online Magazine (September 5-26, 2001): Part One:; Part Two:; Part Three:; Part Four:

Telotte, J. P. "Rounding Up The Usual Suspects: The Comforts of Character and Neo-Noir." Film Quarterly 51.4 (Summer 1998): 12-20.

Wong, Cary. "Review of Fantastic Four by John Ottman (Varese Sarabande CD)." Film Score 10: 5 (September/October 2005): 44-45.

_____. "Review of X2: X-Men United by John Ottman (Superb Trauma CD)." Film Score Monthly 8.3 (July 2003): 34.


    Citation Information
    Author: Mann, Richard G.  
    Entry Title: Ottman, John  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2007  
    Date Last Updated August 9, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2007 glbtq, Inc.  


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