Carter Burwell Q&A: ‘Carol’ composer
"A couple of decades ago I stopped waiting for it to happen," says "Carol" composer Carter Burwell about earning his first Oscar nomination for Best Score. In our recent video chat, he discusses what it's like to finally be recognized by the academy after decades of scoring awards contenders like "Fargo," "Adaptation," "No Country for Old Men" and many more.
He partly credits the awards success of his "Carol" score to its traditional orchestral style and its prominence in the film. "There are basically two characters in the movie, and the music plays the role of a third character," Burwell explains of how director Todd Haynes used his score to evoke the blossoming romance between shopgirl Therese (Rooney Mara) and socialite Carol (Cate Blanchett) in 1950s New York.
But even though his "Carol" score is one of his more traditional compositions, he admires the academy's increasing openness to nontraditional music. "'Gravity' I thought was an unusual score, and I thought it was great that that got the award a few years ago," Burwell says. "By its nature, feature film is a conservative business … so anything that will bring in new voices and new sounds is great, and I'm glad that's happening."
Another benefit of being an Oscar nominee is the company he's keeping. He's up against second-time nominee Johann Johannsson ("Sicario") as well as 13-time contender Thomas Newman ("Bridge of Spies") and a pair of living legends: 2006 Honorary Oscar recipient Ennio Morricone ("The Hateful Eight") and five-time winner and 50-time nominee John Williams ("Star Wars: The Force Awakens").
"That's actually my favorite thing about it," Burwell explains. "I know Tom; we're basically the same generation. But I only got to know Johann a couple of months ago from doing these awards press junkets. I still haven't met Williams and Morricone, but I'm really looking forward to it. Obviously, I grew up listening to their music, and it's thrilling to be in that group."