Danny Elfman is best known for scoring music for movies and television. He has earned numerous honors, including a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, three Golden Globe nominations, and four Academy Award nominations. In 1998, he was honored with dual Oscar nominations for Best Original Score for his work on Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black and Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting. He received his third Oscar nomination for the score of Tim Burton’s acclaimed fantasy Big Fish. Danny earned his most recent Oscar nomination for his score for the acclaimed biopic Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant and his most recent Golden Globe nomination for his score to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.
Danny's association with Tim Burton has produced scores for 13 films including Batman, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. He has worked on over 60 other films as varied as Spider-Man, Dolores Claiborne, Black Beauty, Dead Presidents, To Die For, A Simple Plan, Sommersby, Mission: Impossible, Family Man, Wanted, Dick Tracy, Midnight Run and Chicago.
Danny won an Emmy Award for his theme for the hit television series Desperate Housewives, and was also nominated for his theme for The Simpsons, the longest-running primetime comedy series ever.
At the age of 18 and with no musical training, he followed his brother Richard to Paris, where he got his first musical and performing experience with the avant-garde musical theatre group Le Grand Magic Circus which toured Europe. He then spent a year traveling through West Africa, absorbing musical styles that would eventually influence his own music.
Returning home Danny spent seven years performing with his own theatre troupe and composed his first movie score for his brother's debut feature film, Forbidden Zone. Soon after he started the rock band Oingo Boingo who recorded and toured between 1978 and 1995. His debut orchestral score was for Tim Burton’s Pee Wee’s Big Adventure in 1985.
His love of film music began when he first heard Bernard Herrmann’s score for The Day the Earth Stood Still as a child and he cites Nino Rota and Erich Wolfgang Korngold as other film score influences. He is also inspired by such classical composers as Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky. In recent years Danny has been working in the classical world himself, notably with Serenada Schizophrana for the American Composers Orchestra and the ballet Rabbit and Rogue with Twyla Tharp for American Ballet Theater.
IRIS is Danny’s first engagement with Cirque du Soleil, and although the show is rooted in film he says: “I spent eight years in musical theatre, so my original roots were on the streets doing theatre, music and performance art (including fire-breathing and acrobatics). So in a way, IRIS has brought me back full circle to where I started.”
“My approach to IRIS is primarily orchestral to keep it linked to the inspiration of cinema,” he says. “I combined both large and small ensembles throughout the show. I hope to touch on many film music elements, though sometimes in a surrealistic way.”
Danny Elfman was born in Los Angeles, California.