This story about Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross originally appeared in the Race Begins issue of TheWrap Magazine.
At first, strangely enough, director Luca Guadagnino talked to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross about doing a cover of a Kate Bush song in his disquieting lyrical road movie about cannibalism, “Bones and All.”
“This was long before ‘Stranger Things’ brought up that conversation,” said Reznor quickly. “The song needed to perform a specific task: Lyrically, it needed to convey the point of view, and structurally it had to break down, it had to come back and it had to somehow sit over the kind of tragic climax of these characters and function as what leads you into the, ‘Oh, the movie’s over’ feeling.” He paused. “So naturally, we put that off for a while.”
The two-time Oscar winners (for the scores to “The Social Network” and “Soul”) focused on the film’s score for a while—and Guadagnino had given them lots of instructions for that, too. “He would say things like, ‘The score needs to be terminal and melodic and timeless,’” Reznor said, reading from notes he took during the conversations with Guadagnino. “‘A melancholic elegy, an unending longing. It needs to be a character in the film, a part of the landscape.’”
Eventually, though, after figuring out how the score would sit in the film and going through “an endless amount of experimenting and trying things,” they went back to the song and Reznor said he came up with some lyrics he liked. He sang a rough demo of “(You Made It Feel Like) Home,” not intending to sing the final version himself. “I didn’t sing it like it was meant for me to sing,” he said. “There was the usual lack of confidence. But those guys talked me into keeping that vocal.”
“As the person who didn’t write the lyrics,” added Ross, “I can say that I think it’s devastating when that song comes in. We were in Rome mixing it, and admittedly I had jet lag, but the other people in the room didn’t. And when the song lands at that point in the film, there were a lot of wet eyes in the room. I know I can speak for us both when I say we fell in love with those characters and with that particular moment with those particular lyrics, the imagery and the sparseness.”
Reznor immediately agreed that the two composers felt deeply protective toward the lead characters played by Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell, outsiders in the Midwestern U.S. who also happen to have a taste for human flesh. “We really cared about those characters,” he said. “That doesn’t happen all the time. But over the period of the six, eight or 10 months that you’re working every day watching these people, you’re breathing life into scenarios they’re in with the music that you’re using to help tell their story.”
If he loved the characters, the Nine Inch Nails frontman also recognized them. “I grew up in an area like where this film took place, and during the time period this took place, and I had a similar Kiss poster in my bedroom, you know?” Reznor added, laughing. “I wasn’t eating people, but I know the feeling of feeling like you don’t belong and you don’t fit in and all of that. So if you need a song that can convey that, hey, I can do that.”