Whenever Thomas Newman reunites with director Sam Mendes, it often results in an Oscar nomination for the renowned music composer. Newman has received a whopping 14 Oscar bids throughout his career, of which three were for scoring Mendes films: “American Beauty” (1999), “Road to Perdition” (2002) and “Skyfall” (2012). (Click through our photo gallery above highlighting all of Newman’s noms.) Now a potential 15th Oscar nomination is on the horizon for Newman thanks to “1917,” Universal’s impressive World War I epic directed and co-written by Mendes. Can Newman finally take home the golden statue?
“1917,” which takes place in northern France during the first World War, tells the story of two young soldiers (played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) who are tasked with sending a message that would stop their countrymen from stepping into a trap. In almost real time, we follow the men as they race across enemy territory, encountering various obstacles — both human and otherwise — along their journey. The film also stars Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Since the film is designed to be told in one continuous shot from cinematographer Roger Deakins, Newman’s pulse-pounding score often serves as a unique form of editing. The music cuts off during dramatic cues, ramps up in battle scenes and, in one breathtaking moment, becomes almost operatic as MacKay runs through war ruins to escape being seen from enemy flares. While “1917” doesn’t have the type of score that you find yourself humming along to, its atmospheric music definitely gets under your skin.
Newman’s first two Oscar bids arrived in 1994, as he was nominated against himself for both “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Little Women.” It’s possible he split his own vote that year, allowing Hans Zimmer to prevail for “The Lion King.”
One of his closest shots at claiming Oscar glory was no doubt 1999, as “American Beauty” won five golden statues including Best Picture and Mendes for Best Director. Newman lost that Oscar to John Corigliano for “The Red Violin.”
Even though Newman has yet to take home an Oscar of his own, he does have six Grammys on his mantel for “American Beauty” (score), “Six Feet Under” (composition and arrangement), “WALL-E” (songwriting and arrangement) and “Skyfall” (score). He’s also an Emmy winner for the “Six Feet Under” main title theme music.
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