Renowned German Composer Hans Zimmer: Only Time Mother Said She Was Proud of Me Was After I Revealed I’m Jewish
The only time Academy Award-winning film composer Hans Zimmer’s mother said she was proud of him was after he revealed to the media that he was Jewish, he recalled on Sunday during a pre-Hanukkah virtual celebration.
The German-Jewish composer, perhaps most well known for his work on “The Lion King,” was a featured guest on the event hosted by American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic Foundation.
He told the story of how he was once at the Berlin Film Festival supporting a documentary from director Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation and a journalist at a press conference asked him why he wanted to be involved in the film.
“I said [to the reporter], ‘Actually, I have to confess, I have a rather complicated relationship with my country because I’m Jewish.’ And as soon as I said this” all the cameras turned to focus on him, he remembered.
“I started having a major anxiety attack…a major meltdown,” he said. “I couldn’t wait for the press conference to end. And as soon as it finished, I got on the phone to my mom and I said, ‘Mom, I did something really terrible. I told them. I let everybody know who we are.’ I felt like I put her in danger. That this was the deep, dark secret we should never speak about. There was a long pause at the other end and then she said, ‘I’m very proud of you.’ That is the only time she ever said that to me.”
Zimmer — who also composed for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, “Gladiator” and “The Dark Knight” trilogy, among his many other works — said that while growing up in Germany “we had a cloud hanging over us” because his family was Jewish, and that he was raised with the mentality of “Don’t tell the neighbors who you are.”
He also detailed the process behind creating the opening track for “The Lion King,” how he kept declining the opportunity to work on the film, and what led him to be a composer.
“I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t actually want to be a composer. I wanted to be a fireman,” he explained. “But after my father died, the only family I had was my mom. She was so devastated and the only thing that ever put a smile on her face was when I played the piano. I was compelled to play the piano. I was incapable of having a job of any description other than I could play a bit of music and I could invent things.”
Reflecting on the work he did for “The Lion King” he said: “It’s a story about a father dying and leaving behind a son. And my father died when I was 6 years old…What it really is, is a requiem for my father.”
Watch the entire pre-Hanukkah virtual celebration below. Other featured guests included Grammy and Tony Award-winning actress and singer Bette Midler, actress and star of “Fauda” Rona-lee Shimon, actress and model Dar Zuzovsky and music manager Kenny Hamilton: