An Olympian Effort by Composer Vangelis Ends in An Oscar Score for 'chariots'
Not that he was indifferent. "It's hard being nominated because it makes you tense," confesses the Greek-born composer. "Whether you want it or not, it's a competitive situation, which is against art and creation."
He's still not sold on Hollywood: "I don't know how much is art and how much is a money machine." When Chariots producer David Puttnam signed him in 1980, Vangelis, who has had dozens of hit records in Western Europe with his electronic instrumental, had never scored a major film. He took the job because "it's a nice, healthy, pure film. I like the Olympic Games and I did it for fun." Well, not only fun. He admits his up-front fee for the project was hardly "bottom of the heap," and he gets royalties from the Chariots single and album which have raced into the Top 5 on U.S. pop charts.
Christened Evangelos Papathanassiou and raised in Athens, Vangelis (his stage name is a diminutive of his given name) took to the piano at 4 and at 18 got a Hammond organ, which he painted gold. "It was my first relationship with an electronic instrument," he says. It wasn't his last. He became a keyboard wizard in the '60s with the flamboyant European rock bands Formynx and Aphrodite's Child. "That enormous success was like a vaccine for me," he says. "I don't need that kind of stardom anymore."
Since 1974 he has lived in a Queen's Gate flat with his longtime girlfriend, Veronique Scavinsca, 34, a professional photographer. His cavernous studio, where he scored the Costa-Gavras film Missing and where he is finishing the sound track for Ridley Scott's $30 million futuristic thriller Blade Runner, used to be a Church of England school. Most of his compositions are first-take improvisations. "I work like a bridge between nature and what comes out through my fingers," he philosophizes. "With my synthesizers, I have a lover relationship."