Beautiful Boy: Music

The book Beautiful Boy is filled with references to the deep connection Nic and David have through music, from classic rock to early punk and grunge, so creating an eclectic and personally meaningful soundtrack for the film was a major undertaking for van Groeningen. Early in the process, he brought in a composer to create original music for the film, but he soon decided to take a less conventional approach.

Film’s Title: John Lennon Song

At the suggestion of editor Nico Leunen, the director decided to construct a score entirely of existing music, including songs that were important to the Sheffs. “I always planned to include some of the songs that Nic and David mention in their books,” says van Groeningen. “The title Beautiful Boy is from the John Lennon song. It has special importance for David because he had interviewed John early in his career.” David Sheff admits to being “somewhat obsessed” with music, especially as it is used in film. “This music is extraordinary,” he says. “They use the Lennon song in a beautiful, subtle way. Steve is singing to his beautiful boy and it breaks away into John Lennon singing, which is just gorgeous and heartbreaking.”

One of David’s favorite musical moments comes when he and Nic are in his car and the Nirvana song Territorial Pissing plays. “Nic grew up in the era of Nirvana and that was the first time he educated me about music,” he remembers. “In that scene, Timmy is sort of head-banging and Steve is looking at him with real affection and appreciating that moment. It’s beautiful and that song is so powerful. It says so much about the anger and the power Nic was experiencing during that time.” Finding the right songs, getting clearances, editing them to the right length and weaving them into the narrative was a huge undertaking, according to the director, but it is hard for him to imagine the film without this music. “One of the ideas behind it was that some of these are songs David had listed as ones he couldn’t listen to anymore,” says van Groeningen. “In his book, he tells the parents of addicted children to watch out for these songs because they are going to make them cry.”

Icelandic Avant Rockers Sigur Rós

In addition to rock icons like Lennon and Neil Young, the soundtrack features some alternative acts including ethereal Icelandic avant rockers Sigur Rós. “I liked the eclectic nature of the songs we selected because David and Nic have eclectic tastes,” the director explains. “The Sigur Rós track Svefn-g-englar works amazingly well. It’s moody, dreamy, indie pop music. The music climaxes at the moment Nic shoots up and you realize that he’s just relapsed in a huge way, which is exactly what you don’t want to happen. The music doesn’t prepare you for what’s coming and because of that it hits you even harder.”

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