Scarface: Universal once tried to slap a rap soundtrack on the movie until De Palma blocked it

While Giorgio Moroder’s soundtrack to the 1983 crime epic Scarface is considered a classic, Universal once tried to replace it with hip-hop.

While far from a smash hit in its original 1983 theatrical release, Brian De Palma’s Scarface, over time, became seen as a classic. The rise of home video played a big role, with it having an outsized impact on hip hop artists, with many (MANY) songs sampling the soundtrack/score and dialogue. In fact, its reputation in the rap community was so strong that, around the time of its 20th anniversary, Universal Pictures, in association with Def Jam Records, attempted to redo the movie’s soundtrack with hip hop. 

According to a new book, “The World is Yours: The Story of Scarface,” by Glenn Kenny, star Al Pacino and producer Martin Bergman actually weren’t opposed to the idea of dropping Giorgio Moroder’s classic score (and songs) and replacing it with hip hop, only for Brian De Palma to (thankfully) put the kibosh on the whole deal. As excerpted in the book (buy it here), De Palma said, “No one changes the scores on movies by Marty Scorsese, John Ford, David Lean. If this is the ‘masterpiece’ you say, leave it alone. I fought them tooth and nail and was the odd man out; not an unusual place for me. I have final cut, so that stopped them dead.”

While Def Jam did indeed put out a compilation album of hip-hop tracks inspired by the film, the original cut of the movie was left alone. However, in an interview with The Talks from a few years back, De Palma says Universal “continually” wanted to change the soundtrack, saying, “They’re very unhappy with me because they could obviously make a tremendous amount of money, but I said, “That score’s not being changed.”

One has to admire De Palma’s tenacity here, as a new score would, in the opinion of many of the film’s fans, be something akin to vandalism. Given that the movie takes place in early 1980’s Miami, a contemporary hip-hop score would be out of place, with Moroder’s music, dated as it is, very evocative of the era and the film’s setting. 

Do you think a director less committed than De Palma would have stuck to his guns the way he has? Let us know in the comments! 

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