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Music can be a tricky thing in the film industry. While some artists/estates/companies will happily permit filmmakers to use their songs in movies for a minimal price, there are others who feel that it's an opportunity to demand a whole lot of cash. The latter is a common occurrence in the industry, and one such example can be found in the backstory of Todd Phillips' War Dogs. While the writer/director wanted to have "Paradise City" by Guns N' Roses play during a key sequence in the feature, he hit a brick wall when it came to the cost.
The use of music in War Dogs was one of many aspects of the film that I recently talked about with Todd Phillips during a phone interview. The new movie has a wonderful, eclectic soundtrack, but I was curious if there were any songs that wound up being just out of reach. It turns out that the aforementioned hit from the 1987 album "Appetite for Destruction" was one such title. Said Phillips,
Yeah, that happens, that's always just financial - trying to make these movies for a reasonable price. It's all relative. But this movie is definitely on the lower end of the way most movies are made nowadays. So what you run into is, I remember I wanted to use "Paradise City" when we were coming into Vegas. Guns N' Roses. And they just wouldn't come down on the price. I was like, 'Fuck.' So, you make changes.
The sequence to which Todd Phillips is referring is towards the middle of the movie, and follows David Packouz (Miles Teller) and David Packouz (Miles Teller) as they travel to Las Vegas for an industry convention described as "Comic-Con with grenades." I call recall the sequence at one point using "Ain't That A Kick In The Head" by Dean Martin, though I don't know if that's the song that wound up replacing "Paradise City" (or if one song exactly did).
Discussing the subject of music in War Dogs further, I was curious how Todd Phillips worked the various songs into the mix -- the soundtrack featuring a wide variety of different sounds, including The Who, 50 Cent, Pink Floyd, and House of Pain. Phillips noted that his choices begin in the script stage, though they are always open to change during the post-production process. He explained,
A lot of those cues you'll find in the script. We're always listening to music when we're writing, always, and it finds its way into the script, for the most part. And then of course in the editing, you say, 'Well that doesn't work. We thought that would work beautifully, the thing we put in the script. Let's change that out, let's do that,' and you just start experimenting and trying things. I would say some of those cues were in the script and for a majority, the ones that were in the script probably changed. For example, Pink Floyd, that's my favorite cue in the whole movie, and how it's used, that was in the script. That was, we were literally writing, with that song, just like in our head while we're doing it.
Given that War Dogs carries the spirit of early 1990s Martin Scorsese, it's only fitting that the movie feature an epic soundtrack- and it most certainly does. You'll be able to hear it play out in the film this Friday, as the movie hits theaters August 19th.