I attended the Kubo and the Two Strings Press Day as a guest of Focus Features.
The Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps made an early appearance-in instrumental form-in the Kubo and the Two Strings trailers.
Today marks the release of the official music video, featuring Regina Spektor’s haunting version of the classic song. During our interview, director Travis Knight shared the story of how While My Guitar Gently Weeps became part of the movie.
As with so much of the things that are in this movie, there’s a family connection there. You know, I grew up in a Beatles’ household. My mom was 15 years old when the Beatles were on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time and of course, she was an enormous Beatles’ fan and that’s another gift that my mother bestowed to me. You know, we listened to the Beatles’ record on my mom’s hi-fi, on a 8-track in my dad’s blue Cougar coupe. It was just, you know, Beatles were just kind of part of our life. It was essentially the soundtrack of my life and one, one song that was really, that I love, my mother and I loved more than anything, really, was While My Guitar Gently Weeps. And when we were thinking about this movie and tried to come up with some kind of a musical accompaniment that was evocative of the ideas and the themes that were running through the movie, my mind kept going to that song because it really is a timeless extension… it’s a timeless expression of love and empathy, which is fundamentally what this movie’s about.
And the way we played it, I always heard it in my head as a female voice singing it because to me it was essentially kind of the last words that a mother, the mother gives to her son. And the way we constructed it, it felt like an extension of the movie. We have all the same instrumentation. It was arranged by our extraordinary composer, Dario Marianelli, who threaded different themes from the movie into it as well. It was sung beautifully by Regina Spector, who is also an enormous Beatles’ fan-and has a three-year-old son of her own-so this movie spoke to her in that way as well. And then the way we construct the song, it’s effectively a mother singing to her son and saying, you know, carry on my story.
And at the very end, the coda at the end of the song we have a boys’ choir that comes in, as if it’s Kubo carrying on his mother’s song. He’s going to continue to tell her story. And it was, to me, it was the perfect way to end the movie. It was the perfect encapsulation of all the things that we explore and it’s just a beautiful song. You would never know that it was written in 1965 or whatever it happens to be; it’s 50 years old and it’s as timeless as ever.
There’s also a really interesting story about how it was written because George Harrison, little lad from Liverpool, was starting to get into Eastern philosophy and he was reading the I Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes and he… there’s an idea of connectivity of all things within this book, which is… and he wanted to put that theory to… he wanted to see if that was true. So he was at his mom’s house. He took a book off the shelf. He opened it up and he decided to write a song based on whatever words his finger landed on. He open a book up, and his finger landed on “gently weeps,” he sat down and he wrote a masterpiece…
The things that were exciting George Harrison at the time, the idea of connectivity and things being related and just the connectivity of all things, that’s something that we explore in this movie as well. So there’s almost too many-in the Venn Diagram of things that overlap-there’s almost too many connections with that song in this movie. But I think it really is just a beautiful and perfect encapsulation, musically, of what the whole movie’s about.
Kubo and the Two Strings enters theaters on August 19th.
Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA. Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of Game of Thrones) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Akihiro (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and Kameyo (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro). But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. With the help of his shamisen – a magical musical instrument – Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara), to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family, and fulfill his heroic destiny.
Director: Travis Knight
Writers: Marc Haimes and Chris Butler (ParaNorman)
Voice Cast: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro, and Matthew McConaughey