Justin Hurwitz Q&A: ‘La La Land’ composer
“It took me a very long time to find it — lots of bad ideas, lots of good but not good enough ideas … it took many tries to get there,” said “La La Land” composer Justin Hurwitz about working tirelessly to find the main theme for the movie musical. Hurwitz was part of a “Meet the Experts” panel presented by Gold Derby at the Landmark Theater in L.A. on Nov. 16 to spotlight great achievements in crafts. Watch him discuss the film in our video below.
“La La Land” is a love story about an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) who falls in love with a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) in Los Angeles. Hurwitz had actually been working on the film with writer-director Damien Chazelle since before the collaboration that put them on the map, “Whiplash” (2014), which won three Oscars and was nominated for Best Picture. The success of that film made it possible for them to finally get “La La Land” off the ground.
Hurwitz and Chazelle were inspired by the musicals they loved both loved while in college, and in trying to get their own music right Hurwitz admits that Chazelle was a bit of a taskmaster. “I keep sending Damian demos until there’s one he flips out for, and he’s very demanding,” Hurwitz explained of their collaboration, “but it’s for the best because he keeps pushing and pushing … and I’m always so glad that I kept going.”
Hurwitz and Chazelle both “care so much about melody,” the composer said. “It’s all melodies first, making sure that they’re going to be melodies that really stick with people, that we hope are going to be hummable, that people are going to remember after the movie’s done.” And it looks like they’re getting their wish. Hurwitz’s music has already won a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, and he’s also nominated for Best Score at the Critics’ Choice Awards.
Not bad for a composer on his third film. Before “La La Land,” Hurwitz wrote the scores for Chazelle’s films “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench” (2009) and “Whiplash,” the latter of which earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Score Soundtrack. He’s also written TV scripts for “The Simpsons” and “The League,” which is quite a different creative venture to say the least. Now he’s a top contender to win an Oscar for Best Score according to our latest racetrack odds.