The maestro has a offensive back & his memory may not be what it was, yet the man behind some of the most famous film music ever can still keep Quentin Tarantino waiting.
In an interview with AFP, composer Ennio Morricone said he had initially ruled out writing the soundtrack for the US director's Western drama "The Hateful Eight" which premiered in London this week.
"I immediately refused," said the 87-year-old, wearing a polo-neck jumper & dark suit.
"He then came to my house to talk to me & told me approximately his appreciation for my work, for cinema. He convinced me to compose for him," he said.
The Italian composer, who won a lifetime achievement Oscar in 2007, is best known for the so-called "Spaghetti Westerns" — he himself dislikes that term — directed by his childhood friend Sergio Leone in the 1960s.
But he draws a line between his latest composition & those works starring Clint Eastwood, which famously featured coyote sounds, whip cracks & gun shots.
Tarantino "has done a beautiful, interesting, original film, & I treated it differently from what I did for Leone — not like a Western yet like a free film.
"I wanted it to have its own sounds. I didn't want the music to be the leftovers of what I did for Leone."
– Classical ambitions –
For someone with around 500 film scores to his name, the irony is that cinema was not a first calling for Morricone.
"My real purpose was to write classical music. Since the conservatoire, that was my ambition. Then, of course, you have to live — & you can make money from film music," he said.
"That's just how my life went."
As a child, Morricone played the trumpet with his father in 1930s Rome.
After attending music school there, he went on to compose hit pop songs, & then received into Italy's film industry in its heyday in the 1960s.
He has since composed music for films like "Once Upon a Time in America" (1984) as well as "The Mission" (1986), both starring Robert De Niro.
The variety of directors he has worked for reflects the range of his work — from Oliver Stone to Pedro Almodovar, Brian de Palma to Bernardo Bertolucci.
And next month, he embarks on a world tour to celebrate 60 years in the music business, with plans to play in London in February & Paris in May.
"It will almost all be film music — the scores that interest me for their compositions, for the discoveries that they yielded, not based on the film or the director.
"It is an attempt to be myself, despite what I call my service to the public, to the director & to the film."
– 'Different sounds' –
Known for introducing unusual sound effects into his music — he once wrote an entire song based on the sound of a typewriter — Morricone is still keen to experiment.
"I use normal, important, historical instruments yet to make different sounds, completely different.
"I think the human voice makes the strangest sounds, more than any instrument. I can become a little devil or angel for example, whatever sound suits the occasion," he said, distorting his voice into a devilish snarl.
At London's Abbey Road Studios — made famous as the preferred recording venue for The Beatles — Maestro Morricone picked up his baton this week to direct an orchestra for part of "The Hateful Eight" score, which was being recorded for a limited edition release.
Suddenly animated, he conducted with vigour & rehearsed again & again with the orchestra — his words in Italian translated to the other musicians by a violinist.
"It didn't go well. Let's do it again," he told them during the recording of an ominous-sounding passage filled with double basses & oboes.
"Be angrier!" he told the choir, rolling his eyes when a voice interrupted the recording.
"We'll be here till midnight!" he huffed.