‘Sharp Objects’ Director’s Battle to Put Led Zeppelin in Soundtrack
Jean-Marc Vallee, director of the HBO miniseries Sharp Objects, explained how he chose which Led Zeppelin songs to use in the show's soundtrack, and appeared to still be upset over the fact that he’d previously failed to secure permission to use “Stairway to Heaven” in his 2011 movie Cafe de Flore.
Sharp Objects explores the fictional story of Camille Preaker (played by Amy Adams), a journalist who’s dealing with psychiatric issues while investigating the deaths of two young girls and also battling family problems.
“Just before I started to shoot, I was trying to figure out Camille’s music library, and I couldn’t,” Vallee told Variety. “Then I went, that’s it! She’s not a music person, but she’s going to travel with an iPhone that belongs to someone else who is. And that person is the 16-year-old kid from the rehab center, Alice. It made total sense for this kid to be a Zeppelin fan, just like my kids. I have two sons, and at 16 they were into Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and a lot of British rock. So it travels from generation to generation.”
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He said Zeppelin’s music “fit both characters,” noting that Camille “doesn’t take care of herself. She has a rock 'n' roll attitude. She’s doing it her own way, not only with the scars and how she harms herself, but the way she lives and works, and she’s single. There’s something sexy about the tracks that we chose, in the slowness of ‘What Is and What Should Never Be’ and ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby.’ And when it explodes and makes a lot of noise; this is the nature of rock 'n' roll, to make it loud and tell the establishment and your parents, ‘F--- off, I’m doing it my own way.’ That suited Camille pretty well."
Vallee also commented on the use of the band's classic 1969 track "Thank You." It's "such a beautiful, almost epic song," he said. "That’s the song Alice uses to introduce Camille to how she does an in-scape — she escapes, but within, with music; that’s how she gets out of the rehab center.”
He added that the show’s use of the song in the story was “about connecting to music, and how you use music in your life to heal or to love.” The fourth and final Zeppelin track, “In the Evening,” was used “like score music for a horror or suspense film,” Vallee said. “For the Zeppelin fans it may be a torture, or at least a tease, not to hear more of ‘In the Evening,’ but I wanted to save some of it for the last episode. That may be a spoiler.”
Listen to Led Zeppelin's 'In the Evening'
The director recalled how guitarist Jimmy Page had initially given approval for “Stairway to Heaven” to be used in Cafe de Flore, but singer Robert Plant had refused. “On that one, we worked with the label and publisher for about a year and half,” he said. “Then we harassed Robert Plant when he came to Montreal, and he said no to our faces, live – with no explanation.”
Vallee said the story was written with the song in mind, with multiple flights of stairways shown onscreen. “And then I lost the f—ing track," he said. "I was destroyed! ... I wasn’t pissed – I was devastated. I wanted to quit. I was like, How could they? That song belonged to me, too! I grew up with this f—ing song and it gave me wings to fly and to imagine and to come up with this story, and they refuse? I go, Why would a fellow artist do this to another fellow artist that uses his work to inspire? It’s just sharing, and it’s using art to try to tell stories that can touch the heart.”