Diane Warren just earned her 13th Oscar nomination for writing the song “Somehow You Do” from “Four Good Days.” The prolific songwriter extends her record as the most nominated woman of all time to never win an Oscar.
Warren spoke with Gold Derby senior editor Joyce Eng before this year’s nominations about penning “Somehow You Do,” her experience at the Academy Museum and what would happen if she were to finally win an Oscar. Watch the exclusive interview above and read the complete transcript below.
Gold Derby: Diane Warren, you’ve written yet another song for another film, “Somehow You Do” from “Four Good Days.” Before we get to that song and movie, you’re one of the most prolific film songwriters of our time. So what do you look for in a film when you decide to say, “Yes, I will write a song for you?”
Diane Warren: Well, I either read the script or I see a rough cut of the movie, and it has to be something I have to feel inspired by it, to be honest, something that makes me want to write a song for it. It has to move me some way.
GD: So, “Four Good Days,” it’s a very moving and gut-wrenching film. It’s about Mile Kunis’s character, who’s trying for the 15th time to get sober and Glenn Close plays her mom, and she’s seen it all before and her relapsing. So what about this film spoke to you?
DW: It’s such a powerful story, that mother-daughter bond. By the way, amazing performances by both of them, by Mila and Glenn Close always. By the way, I just did a duet of the song with Glenn Close at her event she just had in New York, and I’m just waiting to get the footage. It was so cool.
GD: We need to see that footage.
DW: Oh, it’s really good. I’m playing it, singing it, and she’s singing along with me. It’s cool. She can sing. But back to, the story really moved me and what I wanted to capture in that, I wanted to capture something uplifting because spoiler alert, if you haven’t seen the movie, a lot of these, sadly, these stories don’t end up well. I just saw there were 100,000 ODs last year in the United States. So it’s such a horrible problem. In this case, after all those times, like you said, 15 times in rehab, she does get through it, Somehow she did.
So I started writing the song, I saw the rough cut of the movie and it was just at the beginning of the pandemic, maybe a month into it, and I’m writing this song for this movie and wanting to capture the fact that no matter what you go through, even the worst with this addiction, but it was at the same time when the pandemic was happening and we were all going through all this, everything shut down and there was so much uncertainty and I felt like the song took on an added layer because that was going on at the same time. And to me, the best songs I write for movies are those songs where I write them for the movie first and foremost. Of course, they have to fit the movie, but then they take on another life and they become something else. Even what I did with Glenn Close with this event. Glenn Close’s event is all about mental health and destigmatizing mental health for kids, especially young kids, young adults, and that song took on another layer there because that song fit that narrative as well. Did I answer your question?
GD: Oh yeah, for sure, but that was also something I think a lot about with a lot of your songs is you have so many well-known songs and a lot of them have also transcended the films themselves and have a double meaning.
DW: I’ll give you an example. Oh, I didn’t mean to interrupt you.
GD: Oh, go ahead. You’re more important than I am.
DW: No, no. You’re more important than me. You know what? F**k it, we’re both important. To ourselves. But Jon Avnet, I’m going to give you an example because you brought up something that made me think. So when I wrote “Because You Loved Me” from “Up Close and Personal” that Jon Avnet directed, I wrote the song in that movie and it was like Robert Redford‘s character dies and Michelle Pfeiffer‘s character, it’s at the end when it’s almost in honor of him. She’s thanking him for everything he did for her. And then it became a wedding song, like one of the biggest wedding songs ever. So there’s that song, the meaning of that, and then that song gets all these different lives, including a wedding song. Who knew? And Jon Avnet is also the producer of “Four Good Days.” So we’re reunited on this movie.
GD: Like 25 years later.
DW: Yeah, and my one little Grammy that I won 25 years ago was for “Because You Loved Me.” But yeah, reunited 25 years later on this movie, and I think, this song I feel just as excited about as I did about that song and it’s already taking on different lives, which is really cool.
GD: And you mentioned, writing at the beginning of the pandemic and having a double meaning, so does that make it easier or harder for you to write?
DW: No, I think it makes the song better. And again, when I write a song for a movie, the first and foremost thing it has to be is right for that movie, and this song really is right for this movie. But then it takes another life, like the pandemic or with the mental illness stuff. No, it’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful thing because it shows that my song, “Somehow You Do,” it resonates. It resonates in different frequencies in a way, and I think that’s a great thing. No, it doesn’t make it harder. I mean, I write the song, it makes really satisfying to know that this song, if you look at Reba McEntire’s, on the comments on the video, I sit and read those comments and I’m in tears. That song’s really touching a lot of people that are going through not just addiction, but through depression and through all kinds of stuff in their life. I saw a couple of things saying the song “really gave me hope” and stuff like that. It makes me feel really good, the fact that this song can help people.
GD: Yeah, for sure. It’s very hopeful and optimistic in its message and that’s something we all need in the past two years.
DW: I think so too. We really do, and we need it now more than ever.
GD: Yeah, for sure. So with this particular song, what was your process like? Was it lyrics first, melody first? Do you have a set process when you write a song?
DW: With this, I saw the rough cut, I came in the office and it was at the beginning of the pandemic. Nobody was on the road. It was kind of eerie. I mean, it was weird because literally it was apocalyptic driving to work and I went to my office every day and it was great because I was the only person there. No one was there to annoy me or distract me. I just annoyed and distracted myself, basically. But I’d seen the movie the night before and I sat at my keyboard. I remember I had this kind of string sound and it was really an orchestral sound, and that chorus just came out. That chorus wrote itself, and then it was kind of going backwards and setting it up.
Whenever I can, I want to give hope, and I think this movie, this story, deserved hope. It ended well, but anyways, it was during the pandemic and I think that informed it as well. Your antennas are up, so you’re taking everything in. So yeah, the song’s written for the movie, but, oh yeah, there’s a pandemic going on, and there’s a lot of people going through a lot of shit right now. There’s a line, “And you’re in the battle alone and life has punched a hole in your soul,” and I think a lot of people were really feeling that. A lot of people felt like life punched a hole in their soul.
GD: Especially at the beginning.
DW: Yeah, and look, a lot of people are feeling it now. Hopefully less, but then there’s the line, “When you think it’s the end of the road, it’s just because you don’t know where the road’s leading to. When you think that the mountain’s too high and the ocean’s too wide and you’ll never get through, someway, somehow, somehow you do,” like when you just can’t see, when you’re in that state, you can’t see that there’s something to live for or something to hope for. And I think the song kind of puts in words and music that there is.
GD: Yeah, well, when you’re writing a song for a film, how much do the performances, not just the story, influence what you write?
DW: Well, I mean, I don’t write with an artist in mind. I didn’t write in mind for Reba McEntire, and I usually don’t write in mind for any artist for a movie, but I cast the artist as if they were a character in the movie. It’s very important. Like when I did “RBG,” “I’ll Fight,” Ruth Bader Ginsburg was kind of mild-mannered, but her words, they shook the planet, our country. She had a loud voice and I got Jennifer Hudson because she was her avatar. Something like this, “Four Good Days,” I could imagine Glenn Close’s character listening to Reba McEntire. It fit. She fit. I can imagine Reba McEntire being in this movie as a friend of Glenn Close’s. The artist that does the song for the movie, they’re another character in the movie to me. So that’s really important. Casting the song is a casting process.
GD: This is your third collaboration with her, right? So was she your first choice to perform the song?
DW: Yeah, it was a friend of mine’s idea. I was just like, “Who can do this?” And my friend who works at Universal Nashville goes, “What about Reba? She’s doing a new record.” And I’m like, “Oh yeah, Reba would be awesome,” and it made sense. I was thinking of some other people as well but as soon as she said Reba, I’m like, “Oh yeah, I could totally see Glenn Close turning on Reba McEntire, a Reba McEntire record.” It totally made sense, and Reba is a great singer, a great artist, and she’s lived. A song like this, you want someone who’s lived a bit, and also, she’s gone through a lot in her life, too. So I knew that that song would resonate with her, and it did.
GD: What was it like working with her again after all this time?
DW: It’s always great to have a great singer do your song, so it was wonderful. I wasn’t in the studio with her. I saw her at the video and it was great to see her.
GD: Yeah, you have two long-awaited reunions between her and Jon, and he directed the video.
DW: Yeah, yeah, I didn’t think of it like that. Yeah, you’re right. There were two big reunions, Reba and Jon. It’s really cool, Jon directed the video as well, and he doesn’t direct videos. He doesn’t need to do that and he just loved the song so much. So yeah, it’s great to be reunited with both of them.
GD: Do you have a favorite lyric from the song? Was it the one you mentioned before with life has just punched a hole in your soul?
DW: Yeah, that’s one of my favorite lines. The B section. I gotta remember how the B section goes.
GD: I’m sorry to put you on the spot.
DW: “But it’s gonna be OK, because the darkest night always finds the day.” That’s one of my favorite lines. The darkest night will find the day, and the first B section’s, “It’s going to be OK. The darkest night still finds the day.” I love that. It’s such a simple line. That’s probably my favorite line in the song because it’s true. The darkest night, it will. It will somehow.
GD: So tell me about this performance with Glenn Close. Did you guys rehearse for a long time? What happened?
DW: Well, we didn’t really rehearse. She has a charity called Bring Change to Mind, about mental illness, especially for high school kids and young adults and it’s a passionate project for her, and through a friend of mine, my friend knew someone who ran her charity and they said, “We’d love to get Diane to do a night of her songs.” And then I was kind of thinking, “Well, ‘Somehow You Do’ is from her movie and it fits this. Like I said, when you look at the comments on the video, there’s a lot about depression and mental illness and I suggested doing it as a duet and she goes, “Let’s do it!” And so we did. I have stage fright. I’m not someone who really likes being on a stage. And I said, “Look, even if you don’t sing, just sit with me and you’ll sing part of it.” It was really cool.
GD: Did you each take a verse?
DW: We kind of sang the choruses together. But it was a beautiful moment. It was a beautiful moment.
GD: We need to see that. The public needs to see this performance.
DW: I know, I’m waiting to get the footage. So you will see it. You will see it soon. I can’t wait to see it.
GD: Well, lastly, I need to ask about your bit in the “A Night at the Academy Museum” special. It’s one of my favorite things you’ve ever done. So, for anyone who hasn’t seen it, there is a section in the museum where fans can go accept an Oscar and give their own speech, and you did that in the special. You gave a speech, and you’ve always had such a great sense of humor about your Oscar record. So how did this come about?
DW: When they asked me to do it, I was like, “F**k yeah, I’m going to do this!” Some people probably would have gone, “No, we can’t do that.” No, man. You can’t take everything so seriously. And look, the fact I’ve been nominated 12 times, by the way, this 12th time I became the most nominated woman in 93 years of Oscar history in any category to be nominated this many times without winning. So that’s really cool. I’ll take it, come on! But here’s the thing, the Grammys have, how many song categories do the Grammys have?
GD: It’s like 100-something. They whittled it down to like 80-something recently.
DW: Right. So, Oscars, one category, five songs, OK? There’s, what, hundreds of songs in movies? Hundreds of movies with songs, right? If you look at the people that are in the music branch, they’re the greatest songwriters on the planet. They’re the greatest composers on the planet. The fact that they would choose me, to nominate me, if that’s not a win, I don’t know what it is. That’s a giant win for me. I take that as a win. So winning, yeah, would it be great? Of course. Maybe lucky 13. Who knows? But back to the Academy thing, they asked me to do it and I just had fun. I loved it. And at the end, when I go, “I’m not giving this back,” that was almost real.
GD: Did you actually try to sneak that out?
DW: I’m like, “How do I get this? I can’t, really… it’s kind of big.” It’s heavy. I’ve never lifted one, obviously (laughs).
GD: Did you have a bag right by your feet?
DW: Well, I should have. I didn’t think of that, but I lifted it up, like, “Wow, maybe I can run.” And I wasn’t really going to take it, but I didn’t really realize how heavy they are. They’re really f**king heavy. I could do some arm-
GD: Yeah, get fit. Well, the speech you gave was also hilarious. Did you write that yourself? Did you have writers for the special work on it?
DW: I made it more me. There was someone that had written something and I’m like, “I’m not gonna say this.” I definitely made it more what I would say. It was kind of fun. It was kind of a surreal thing because it almost felt real, but it was fun, and you gotta laugh. You gotta have fun with all this stuff because it’s fun.
GD: And it is something to be proud of. Your first nomination was in the ‘80s, that longevity.
DW: Yeah, I mean, that’s the thing. It was in ’88, was my first nomination. That’s, what, 33 years ago? That’s crazy. If I had a choice, like if someone said, “Well, if you had a chance to win an Oscar and never be nominated again or be nominated 12 times and never win or 13 or whatever and never win,” hey, I’ll take the multiple nominations because like you said, that’s longevity and that’s respect. That’s just still being in the game and still kicking ass, and I am, and I’ll take it. I’m proud of all this stuff, and I love writing songs for movies and I’m proud of these songs. I’m proud of this song. I think the song is doing a lot of good, and I love the fact I can write something that can give people hope or make people feel good. So that’s a really cool thing, too. It’s all great. It’s all a win. Maybe I haven’t won, but it’s all a win.
GD: For sure. Diane, it was great speaking with you. Thanks again for your time, and fingers crossed for lucky number 13. If it is your time this time, I hope you give the exact same speech, with the donkeys and horses and elephants.
DW: I think that I would probably faint before I get up there. If that actually happens they’ll have to carry me up on a stretcher.
GD: It’ll just be an iconic moment at the Oscars.
DW: I’ll be like, “What? Huh? How’d that happen?” Thank you so much.
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