Diane Warren Q&A: ‘The Hunting Ground’ songwriter
“I was just compelled to write the song for this,” reveals Diane Warren during our recent webcam chat about “Til It Happens to You,” the tune she penned for “The Hunting Ground.” This shattering new documentary from Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering shines a light on college rape crimes. Warren co-wrote the song with Lady Gaga, who also performs it.
The title, she explains, comes from something deeply personal. “Till it happens to you, you don’t know how it feels. Everybody can tell you, ‘it’s gonna be fine, it’s gonna get better,’ and you know what? When you’re going through that, you don’t feel that. You don’t. You feel like nobody understands you.”
The film follows several different women and men who have survived sexual assault on college campuses, stirring up strong reactions within the viewer that no doubt influenced Warren’s song. “There’s a lot of different emotions that you feel,” she divulges.
“Of course you just feel kicked in the gut and heartbroken because it’s so harsh, to hear what these girls go through.” Yet many of the women in the film have started fighting to call attention to institutional cover-ups within the school systems, and to show its devastating effects. “When you see the whole movie,” she continues, “you see them getting empowered.”
As performed by Lady Gaga, Warren believes, “That song follows the stories of these girls, really. When Gaga sang it, the first verse is very vulnerable, like the girls are at the beginning; the second verse, she’s getting more pissed off; and then in the end, it’s so victorious, and powerful. They’re not just survivors, they’re activists. So the song is following that.”
Warren has racked up seven Oscar nominations but no wins for original songs in “Mannequin” (‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’), “Up Close & Personal” (‘Because You Love Me’), “Con Air” (‘How Do I Live’), “Armageddon” (‘I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing’), “Music of the Heart” (‘Music of My Heart’), “Pearl Harbor” (‘There You’ll Be’), and “Beyond the Lights” (‘Grateful’). ‘Because You Love Me,’ written for Celine Dion, won her a Grammy.
“Till It Happens to You” was nominated for Best Song at the Oscars and Critics’ Choice Awards. Do you think it will contend next at the Emmy Awards?