Diane Warren interview: ‘The Life Ahead’ songwriter
“I got really lucky this year with a couple of these movies. They’re both fantastic movies,” says songwriter Diane Warren, who got to compose songs for multiple films she admired in 2020, including Netflix’s drama “The Life Ahead” and Disney’s “The One and Only Ivan.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Warren above.
She wrote “Io Sì (Seen)” for “The Life Ahead,” and it’s unique for her in that it’s performed in Italian, which makes it her first song from a film in a language other than English. “I wrote it in English,” Warren explains, “and I was really inspired by reading that script. It was such a powerful, moving story, and I kept seeing this word ‘seen’ because Madame Rosa, Sophia Loren‘s character, and Momo, the young boy — the world doesn’t see them for who they are … But yet they truly see each other, they truly love each other and understand each other.”
However, something wasn’t quite clicking with the song. “We tried to arrange it different ways,” she remembers. Then she and music supervisor Bonnie Greenberg realized, “Wait, the movie’s in Italian, the song can’t be in English of course. It’s jarring … Why don’t I go to [Laura Pausini], and let’s get a great Italian version.” So Pausini worked on Italian lyrics with Niccolò Agliardi and recorded it. And already during this awards season it has won Best Song from the Capri Hollywood Film Festival.
Warren also penned “Free” from “The One and Only Ivan,” which is a strikingly different film to say the least, adapted from a children’s book about a gorilla trying to escape from captivity. But the song has a similarly uplifting, aspirational quality. It’s performed by Charlie Puth, who Warren thought “really fit that movie. He really fit the song. I sent it to him on a Sunday morning, and he recorded it Sunday night, so he really loved it. He doesn’t usually do other people’s songs. He writes his own. It’s always cool when a songwriter does your song.”
So that’s two more chances at Oscar for Warren, who has been nominated 11 times to date for Best Original Song for classics including “Because You Loved Me” (from “Up Close and Personal”), “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” (from “Armageddon”) and “How Do I Live” (from “Con Air”). But she hasn’t won yet. Is this the year she’ll be “Seen” by the motion picture academy?