In the sleepy port town of Bellingham, Washington, sixteen-year-old aspiring composer Bear McCreary imagined and wrote his own films, just so he could score them. A chance encounter led him to film music legend Elmer Bernstein, who moored his boat in Bellingham harbor. The maestro recognized a passion for musical storytelling in the ambitious high school student, and encouraged him to study composition at the USC School of Music in Los Angeles, where he took him on as a protégé. Two decades later, McCreary has validated Bernstein’s instincts, having proven himself one of the most versatile and in-demand composers in the industry. Forbes recently declared ”as a composer, his genre track record is one of the most impressive in modern day Hollywood.” Currently, McCreary is scoring The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Amazon Studios’ record-shattering series that debuted to twenty-five-million viewers. As composer for the series, he will guide audiences through the major events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Second Age of Middle-earth.
McCreary scored the feature film Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Warner Bros. and Legendary’s follow-up to the 2014 hit. SuperheroHype declared “McCreary’s music is so epic that it’s hard to imagine Godzilla: King of the Monsters without it. There’s simply a level of supremely effective bombast in the soundtrack that is unrivaled by the current batch of blockbuster films.” In stark contrast, McCreary used an inventive “toy orchestra” to score MGM and Orion’s hit Child’s Play (2019), creating what the Chicago Tribune declared “an all time great score.” The film features ”The Buddi Song,” the critically acclaimed song performed by the film’s star Mark Hamill, which the Charleston Post Courier described as “the creepiest thing I’ve heard all year.” These were not McCreary’s first monster films, as he collaborated closely with producer J.J. Abrams on the Cloverfield film series, scoring the Paramount Pictures and Bad Robot films 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Cloverfield Paradox. Time Magazine raved that 10 Cloverfield Lane‘s “finest feature may be Bear McCreary’s playfully malicious score, a beehive of worried-sounding strings that channels the spirit of Hitchcock fave Bernard Herrmann.” USA Today praised the “fantastic wordless opening set to Bear McCreary’s roiling, glorious score.” McCreary’s incorporation of Blaster Beam, yialli tanbur and other exotic instruments into the gripping thriller drew upon his experience from his first job: scoring the influential and revered Battlestar Galactica. His music for that series was lauded by Variety as “innovative,” “like no other” by NPR, and earned him a coveted spot on Io9.com’s “Ten Best Science Fiction Composers of All Time.”
McCreary’s wide-ranging recent film credits include the Netflix hit We Have a Ghost, which debuted as the number one film on the platform. He also scored Crip Camp, the Academy-Award-nominated documentary about the disability civil rights movement that was produced by Barack and Michelle Obama, as well as the Universal / Blumhouse hits Freaky and Happy Death Day, as well as The Professor and the Madman, a historical drama starring Mel Gibson, Sean Penn and Natalie Dormer. He also scored Paramount’s animated feature Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank, for executive producer Mel Brooks, the Netflix adventure film Rim of the World for director McG, as well as the Anne Hathaway sci-fi-drama Colossal, Netflix’s animated feature Animal Crackers, Danny Strong’s J.D. Salinger biopic Rebel in the Rye, the critically-acclaimed documentary Unrest, and Disney’s Step Up 3D. He made his foray into animated series collaborating with Kevin Smith on the Netflix series Masters of the Universe: Revelation. In the video game world, he earned the prestigious BAFTA and DICE awards for his soaring score to Sony Playstation’s 2018 hit God of War. He returned to the franchise with 2022’s smash-hit sequel God of War: Ragnarök, for which he composed the score, and also acted, portraying a Dwarf in the game named Ræb. His other video game credits include Activision’s Call of Duty: Vanguard for which he was Grammy nominated, the virtual reality experience Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, and Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate: Jack the Ripper.
In recent years, McCreary has become increasingly recognized for his musical innovation. His iconic theme for AMC’s decade-long record-shattering global phenomenon The Walking Dead is one of the most popular in the medium. He won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Main Title Theme for his theme to David S. Goyer’s epic historical fantasy Da Vinci’s Demons. The theme itself a carefully-constructed palindrome (it sounds the same forwards and backwards), evoking musical homage to Da Vinci’s own writings. His score for the epic Apple TV+ series Foundation was orchestrated around custom software, inspired by the show’s mathematical premise. McCreary also received Emmy nominations for his work on the pirate drama Black Sails, from executive producer Michael Bay, Outlander, Ronald D. Moore’s global-hit adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s acclaimed novels, and FOX’s Human Target which, along with his brassy- score for Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,helped pave the way for large orchestral scoring to return to television. He has twice been awarded “ASCAP Composer of the Year – Television” by his peers. His diverse body of work inspired The Ringer in 2023 to declare McCreary the 23rd Most Definitive Bear in popular culture!
McCreary enjoys collaborating with artists from across the musical spectrum. He recently co-wrote and collaborated with multi-platinum artist Hozier to create “Blood Upon the Snow” for God of War: Ragnarök. For The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, he worked with multiple Grammy winner Fiona Apple, who sang his song “Where the Shadows Lie,” and collaborated with legendary singer Sinéad O’Connor on the seventh season Outlander main title theme. He has also enjoyed exciting musical collaborations with Shirley Manson (Garbage), Serj Tankian (System of a Down), and Scott Ian (Anthrax), among many others.
Never content to work only in a darkened studio, McCreary has always enjoyed performing in concert. He has conducted performances of his music throughout North America and Europe, appearing at Fimucité in Tenerife, and the International Film Music Festival in Úbeda, Spain. He has composed concert commissions for the Calder Quartet and Getty Center, the Hagen Philharmonic and Ballet in Germany, the Television Academy, the Seattle Symphony, and the Golden State Pops Orchestra. In July 2014, Maestro Gustavo Dudamel conducted a suite of McCreary’s music with the L.A. Philharmonic and L.A. Master Chorale at the Hollywood Bowl.
In quiet moments (few and far between), McCreary often wonders what his longtime friend and mentor Elmer Bernstein would say about his career. Sadly, he will never know. The iconic Bernstein passed away on the very day that McCreary began composing his original score for his first television series, Battlestar Galactica. McCreary says he will always look back with gratitude to the day when he first crossed paths with Bernstein. “Elmer’s guidance was a gift I can never repay,” McCreary said. “But I will spend my life trying to do so.”