Justin Hurwitz Q&A: ‘La La Land’ composer
“It felt like such a pipe dream,” admits composer Justin Hurwitz as we chat via webcam (watch above) about his musical film “La La Land.” For years, it seemed as if Hurwitz and his college pal Damien Chazelle wouldn’t be able to bring this love story about a struggling pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) to the screen. The success of their film “Whiplash” (2014) allowed them to finally make their dream project, and the result is an awards juggernaut that brought the tunesmith three Oscar nominations: one for Best Score and two for Best Song. “To have it out there in the world to begin with, and then to have people respond to it like they have, has been really kind of surreal,” he adds.
The film was a close collaboration between the longtime friends. “He’s very demanding of the people he works with,” reveals Hurwitz of his director. “I do my best work with him because he knows what I do, he appreciates what I do, and he’s very specific and very demanding sometimes. You have to keep going, keep going, keep going until it’s what he feels is great, but as soon as it’s great, I’m happy that I got pushed to that point.”
Hurwitz shares his song bids for “Audition” and “City of Stars” with lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. With 14 total citations, “La La Land” tied the all-time record for most Oscar nominations with “All About Eve” (1950) and “Titanic” (1997). The film also competes for Best Picture, Best Director (Chazelle), Best Actor (Gosling), Best Actress (Stone), Best Original Screenplay (Chazelle), Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing.