By D'Lynn Waldron

Rolfe Kent is one of the most sought-after young composers in the movie industry and has scored ten films in the past three years. His most recent score is Jack Nicholson's About Schmidt. His other recent films include the hits Kate & Leopold with Meg Ryan, Nurse Betty with Renee Zellweger, and Legally Blonde with Reese Witherspoon. Rolfe Kent was born in England and, like his mother, is a psychologist by training, with a degree from Cambridge, but since childhood he wanted to compose music for the movies. Rolfe brings to his movie scores an intelligence and psychological insight that makes him especially suited to express such things as the comic angst of retirement in Nicholson's About Schmidt, and the juxtaposed real and delusional worlds of Nurse Betty.

Rolfe Kent explains that it is most important for him to find a point of view that will help the audience both understand and experience what is happening in the story. In some scenes he writes from the point of view of the character, in others from a detached observer's point of view. Rolfe does not believe in forcing an emotional response with his music, and in this he shows a respect for the intelligence of the audience that is rare in today's films.

Like most movie composers, Rolfe does not like temp tracks, not even those made up of his own music, because his scores are uniquely crafted for each film he does. Rolfe has a prodigious natural musical ability. Without any formal training he has mastered orchestrating for everything from a few instruments to a full orchestra. Rolfe is a very personable, intelligent, and articulate young man, as shown in his recent appearance discussing how he solved the difficult problems involved in scoring Nurse Betty, in the BRAVO 2002 television series 'Music Behind the Scenes', For this series Rolf was chosen to be in the company of such renowned movie composers as Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith and Maurice Jarre.

Rolfe Kent always wanted to be a composer for film. At the age of 12 he realised that "on hearing film music, my head was immediately filled with images from the movies. I couldn't hear the music from THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, or from LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, without being carried back to those films in my mind. I thought this was amazing, and this is what I'd like to do." Kent has had no formal classical musical training, and throughout his college years taught himself various instruments, while earning a degree in psychology at the University of Leeds in Yorkshire. As a student, he often found himself joining local bands and contributing original compositions. His music career took its first major step with the music for GROSS, a stage play produced at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Before long, Kent was applying his music to television films such as SHALOM JOAN COLLINS (1989, directed by Mandie Fletcher). As his assignments proliferated, Kent sought new sounds and new ways to support and enhance the drama of narratives. In the early 90's, Kent met director Alexander Payne. The two collaborated on some television work, which begot the highly successful theatrical release, CITIZEN RUTH (1996) for Miramax films. CITIZEN RUTH starred Laura Dern in the story of a woman unwittingly wedged into the legal and moral battle over abortion. Payne infused the film with a unusual sense of dark humor, and Rolfe Kent responded with an off-kilter music score.

The following year, Kent scored yet another high profile Miramax film: THE HOUSE OF YES (starring Parker Posey and Freddie Prinze Jr.). YES required Kent to work in a more orchestral vein, to which he applied his trademark sense of building textural grooves. After this came Tamara Jenkins' critically lauded THE SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS (Natasha Lyonne, Marisa Tomei, Alan Arkin) for Fox Searchlight, which was nominated for two independent Spirit Awards. Following up on Jenkins' observation that the score should represent the meager financial state of the film's protagonists ("These are poor people, they don't get a rich person's score," he recalls her saying), Kent suggested a score recalling the work of Kurt Weill. The director loved the idea, so Kent wrote his music for a charmingly wobbly ensemble of banjo, tuba, mandolin, melodica, and other instruments.

Kent scored the disturbing thriller OXYGEN (starring Maura Tierney, Adrien Brody) for an orchestra augmented with resonating plate and rod assemblies, and Fine Line's quirky romance THE THEORY OF FLIGHT. The filmmakers had experimented with a number of musical backings for the story about a wheel-chair bound woman (Helena Bonham Carter) and her relationship with a flight-obsessed man (Kenneth Branagh), but Kent felt that the film needed a score that matched the scope of its emotions, not its small band of characters, and so wrote a warm, rich orchestral score.

In 1999, Rolfe Kent re-teamed with Alexander Payne for Paramount Pictures/MTV Films' ELECTION, and once again the score takes the path-less-traveled to both clarify the wry atmosphere of Payne's film and to contribute an essence that the film would otherwise be without. Some scenes were actually cut around the music. Kent also did the music for GUN SHY, a contemporary gangster comedy starring Sandra Bullock, Liam Neeson and Oliver Platt from director Eric Blakeney released in 1999.

Other recent projects include Neil Labute's NURSE BETTY, the comedy, SOMEONE LIKE YOU starring Ashley Judd, Greg Kinnear and Hugh Jackman from director Tony Goldwyn which opened this spring; TOWN & COUNTRY from director Peter Chelsom, which opened in April and MGM's LEGALLY BLONDE starring Reese Witherspoon, and Selma Blair. Kent also scored the upcoming HAPPY CAMPERS starring Brad Renfro and Dominique Swain from writer/director Daniel Waters. He has several other future projects including Miramax Films' comedy 40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS starring Josh Hartnett from director Michael Lehmann, and Granada's thriller THE JURY directed by Peter Travis, and ABOUT SCHMIDT starring Jack Nicholson.

For Rolfe Kent's excellent description with examples of how a scene is scored and how it is with and without music:

About Schmidt (2002) CD release
40 Days and 40 Nights (2002) ... aka "40 jours et 40 nuits" (France)
Kate & Leopold (2001) CD release
Legally Blonde (2001)
Town & Country (2001) CD release
Someone Like You (2001) ... aka Animal Attraction (UK)
Happy Campers (2001)
Mexico City (2000/I)
Nurse Betty (2000) CD release
Gun Shy (2000) ... aka Gunshy (Australia: video title)
Oxygen (1999)
Election (1999) CD release
Don't Go Breaking My Heart (1998) CD release
Theory of Flight, The (1998) CD release
Slums of Beverly Hills (1998) CD release
House of Yes, The (1997)
Mercy (1996)
Citizen Ruth (1996) ... aka Meet Ruth Stoops