Diane Warren interview: ‘Four Good Days’ songwriter
Diane Warren is of course no stranger to film songwriting. The Grammy and Emmy winner has received 12 Best Original Song Oscar nominations, including one earlier this year for “Io Si (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead.” So how does she decide which films gets the honor of boasting a trademark Diane Warren ballad? “I either read the script or I see like a rough cut of the movie and it has to be something I feel inspired by, to be honest, something that makes me wanna write a song for it,” Warren tells Gold Derby (watch above). “It has to move me in some way.”
That was what happened with “Four Good Days.” The drama stars Mila Kunis as Molly, an addict who’s embarking on her 15th attempt at sobriety. Seeking help, she goes to her mother Deb (Glenn Close), who’s unsure about her daughter’s commitment after seeing this cycle repeat so many times already. Warren was touched by the “powerful story” and wanted to write a song of hope, the result being “Somehow You Do,” performed by Reba McEntire, for whom she had written two songs previously. Little did Warren know the real-life circumstances that would make the tune’s message even more poignant.
“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 [you can get through it],” she says. “But at the same time the pandemic was happening and we’re 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, because they have to fit the movie, but then they take on another life and they become something else.”
Certainly, a lot of Warren’s famous tracks — “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” “Because You Loved Me” and “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,” to name a few — have transcended the films for which they were written, and she has already seen that happen with “Somehow You Do.” Warren has been “in tears” reading comments on McEntire’s music video from people who have found hope and inspiration in the song. Recently, Warren and Close performed “Somehow You Do” as a duet for Close’s charity Bring Change to Mind, a nonprofit aimed at destigmatizing mental health among young adults. Warren’s currently waiting for footage of the performance to post.
“I was thinking ‘Somehow You Do’ is from her movie and it fits this,” the songwriter shares. “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. I said, ‘Look, even if you don’t sing, just sit with me and we’ll sing part of it.’ It was really cool.”
Also cool? Warren’s bit in the ABC special “A Night at the Academy Museum” earlier this fall. A section of the new museum allows visitors to lift an Oscar and give an acceptance speech. Warren, who has gone 0-12, did just that with a “practice run.” “When they asked me to do it, I was like, ‘F— yeah! I’m gonna do this.’ Some people probably would’ve gone, ‘We can’t do that.’ No, I mean, you can’t take everything so seriously. This 12th time I became the most nominated woman in 93 years in Oscar history to be nominated this many times without winning. So that’s really cool,” she states. “I had fun. I loved it. At the end, when I go, ‘I’m not giving this back,’ that was almost real. 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. … I lifted it up and was like, ‘Let’s see.’ [Looks around]. No, I wasn’t really going to take it. But I was kind of like, ‘Hmm.’ But I didn’t realize how heavy they are. They’re really f—ing heavy.”
And yes, it really is an honor to just be nominated. “If you look at the people 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 for me, I don’t know what is,” Warren says. “That’s a giant win for me. I take that as a win. Winning, would it be great? Of course. Maybe lucky 13, who knows?”