Danny Elfman‘s résumé speaks for itself. He’s composed over 100 film scores across more than three decades, including some of the most famous and beloved in Hollywood history. Topping the list is his iconic soundtrack for Tim Burton’s Batman. But that signature theme could have been very different if not for some quick thinking… along with some quick trips to the bathroom. Elfman’s inspiration for the score hit when he was on a commercial air flight. And he managed to save the idea by repeatedly rushing to the plane’s lavatory to keep the song from disappearing into the sky.
The Oscar-nominated composer shared his Batman bathroom story on Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast. (Which we first heard about at Syfy.) Elfman said he had the idea for the film’s score while on a 747, which he called “the worst possible time.” He feared he was “going to forget this all” when the plane landed. Back then, flights played music when the plane touched down, and Elfman though “some f***ing Beatles song” would wipe out his idea. But he also realized he couldn’t just hum the idea into a recorder while at his seat. So he went to the only place a passenger can get some privacy on an airplane—the bathroom.
But not just once. He had to make repeated trips in a short time. Eventually, the crew noticed. After each time, he opened the door to find more and more flight attendants waiting on him. (Who knows what they thought he was actually doing, but there’s no way they thought it was good. Let alone historic.) Fortunately, they didn’t actually interfere with the creative process. Nor did The Beatles.
Elfman explained in his MasterClass how his toilet trips saved the day:
“And so I get home, I run down to my studio, and I press the Play button, and now I’m hearing [BLOWING AIR] a little bit of my voice in the background. I’m going, oh, my god. And I just a little bit and a little bit. And then, finally, after listening for about 20 minutes, the different parts–French horns, trumpets, this is the low brass, string ostinato—it came back to me. And it came – that was, in fact, exactly the ‘Batman Theme’ as it plays in Batman.”
Considering the score turned out to be an iconic hit, this is at least the second best thing that has ever happened in an airplane bathroom.