“You never anticipate, first of all, to be nominated for anything … and certainly not for two films,” says Alexandre Desplat, who picked up a pair of Oscar nods this year for composing the scores for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Imitation Game” (listen to our podcast interview below). “It’s always incredible to have one, so to have two puts you over the moon.”
This is the first time Desplat has ever been double-nominated, but he’s hardly a stranger to the Oscars. He has now been nominated eight times in the past nine years, though he has yet to win. And he’s so prolific that he’s had no shortage of chances, scoring “Grand Budapest,” “Imitation Game,” “The Monuments Men,” “Unbroken,” and “Godzilla” in 2014 alone.
The wide variety in the styles and tones of his projects are part of what appeals to him about the work. “I like the idea that cinema is diverse,” he says. “That’s exciting to me, to use all the tools that music offers … and use these tools in different ways.”
“Grand Budapest” was Desplat’s third collaboration with director Wes Anderson – and the second to earn him an Oscar nomination, following “Fantastic Mr. Fox” – and working repeatedly with a filmmaker, as he has also done with Stephen Frears and Roman Polanski, “does give you some kind of comfort at the moment you start.” But he acknowledges there is also the added pressure of “proving to this director he was right calling you back.”
“Imitation Game” was the composer’s first collaboration with director Morten Tyldum, but it almost didn’t happen at all. He initially turned down the film due to a scheduling conflict, but when he suddenly became available again, he didn’t waste any time: though some projects take months to complete, he composed the “Imitation” score in just three weeks. That music alone has earned him Oscar, Golden Globe, and Critics’ Choice nods – not bad for less than a month’s work.
“[Tyldum] was very brave to accept that in three weeks a composer would try and write a score,” says Desplat of the time crunch. “He knew it was an important device for the film.”
Desplat has been composing for decades, but he has exploded in prominence over the last 10 years, and his awards windfalls over the years have been a boon to his career: “When I got the first nomination at the Golden Globes in 2004 for ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring,’ that was the first plateau that opened a new world of directors, and then the nomination to the Oscars of course opened another level of exposure.”
But “I think the Oscar will mean the most to me, because it’s the one I never won,” Desplat adds with a laugh. But looking back at his laurels over the years, which also includes a Best Score Soundtrack Grammy for “The King’s Speech,” he confides that the most meaningful one was his first: “The Silver Bear in Berlin for a score I wrote for Jacques Audiard, ‘The Beat That My Heart Skipped’ – it was the beginning of many awards that came after this one, so the first one is the only one that is standing on my desk in my studio … this one I keep near me because it’s my lucky charm, my lucky Bear.”
Will Desplat finally win an Oscar to accompany his lucky Bear? Listen to our podcast interview below, then use our drag-and-drop menu to predict the Oscar for Best Score.