LOS ANGELES - Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross started writing music for the American adaptation of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" months before they'd even seen the script.
"We tried some new approaches in terms of handing over lots and lots of music that was composed really from an impressionist point of view, before anything was even shot, so that (director) David (Fincher) and the filmmakers could really weave it into the fabric of the story," Reznor said. "Just see how that works: A new experiment."
The composers earned a Golden Globe nomination last week for their original score - their second consecutive nomination in that category. The pair won the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for their score for 2010's "The Social Network."
Reznor, 46, said working with Fincher on "The Social Network" prepared the composers to take a novel approach to the music for "Dragon Tattoo."
"As I learned how the process works on `Social Network,' it struck me that the director could really use access to music while the scenes are being edited together," he said. "Often what they do is reach into a bucket of temp music to kind of get the vibe of what they think it might sound like. I thought, well, if you had a lot of music to start with, that would certainly be a helpful tool while they're putting the broad strokes of the film together."
Reznor and Ross dedicated a year to the project, and much of the music they wrote before shooting began made it into the final film, which opens Wednesday. The film follows a journalist (played by Daniel Craig) who enlists the help of a young computer hacker (Rooney Mara) to investigate a series of decades-old killings. The original Swedish version of the film, based on Steig Larsson's novel, was released in 2009.
Fincher's film is "a fairly unpleasant and uncomfortable viewing experience," Reznor said. "We really wanted to get under the skin of the viewer and contribute to a sense of uneasiness when that was appropriate, and also try to breathe life into the landscape where this takes place, a very frigid Sweden, and act like set dressing really. It's not an obvious score."
He said the composers aimed to create music that "fits right in with the lighting or the set design or the costumes."
"There's nothing I think you're going to leave the theater humming in your head necessarily in terms of score, and that's intentional," Reznor said.
It's a completely new way to think about music for the Nine Inch Nails front man.
"When I'm writing music for myself or for my own projects, I'm hoping that it eats up close to 100 percent of your attention, what's coming into your ears. And working in film and particularly with David, it really is contributing to the overall experience," Reznor said. "It's forcing me to rethink how I compose and what role sound plays and how to contribute and manipulate emotionally what you're experiencing but not in the same way I'm used to doing it, and that makes it exciting for me."