Ron and Russell Mael interview: ‘Annette’ songwriters

“It sets the tone that this is a musical, but it’s a pretty uncompromising musical in all sorts of ways,” Russell Mael explains about Oscar-shortlisted song “So May We Start” from “Annette,” which he co-wrote with brother Ron Mael (both of whom are otherwise known as avante-garde pop duo Sparks) and the film’s acclaimed French helmer Leos Carax (“Holy Motors”).

We talked with the Mael borthers as part of Gold Derby’s special film songwriters “Meet the Experts” Q&A event with key Oscar contenders. Watch our exclusive video interview above.

SEE Gold Derby interviews with 2022 Oscar contenders

In addition to writing the songs and score for “Annette,” the Mael brothers also penned the screenplay for the musical psychological drama, which Carax directed in his English-language debut, and on which he also co-wrote the lyrics to the film’s song score. The rock opera for Amazon Prime follows a provocative stand-up comedian (Adam Driver) and his opera singer wife (Marion Cotillard) and how their lives are forever changed after the birth of their first child, Annette. The film premiered as the opening film at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, where Carax received the coveted Best Director prize.

The soundtrack to “Annette” is a mix of eclectic rock and synth-pop gems reminiscent of the style that Sparks is known for, including “Thanks But No Thanks”, “Bon Voyage,” “The Calm Before the Storm” and of course the Oscar-shortlisted opening number, which opens the film with Driver, Cotillard, co-star Simon Helberg and the Mael brothers accompanied by a quartet of back-up singers as they march down Santa Monica Boulevard in a single tracking shot belting out the triumphant anthem, beckoning the audience to come along for the ride.

“We wanted a song opening the film that was both kind of in the film and outside in a way where the actors, the directors, the writers, would all be commenting on the fears and difficulties of actually making this particular production,” Ron Mael explains. “We’ve always felt that pop music has a certain form,” Russell Mael adds. “They’re three and a half minute songs in a general way, but that within that format, you should always be an artist trying to push the boundaries of what you can actually do within that three or three and a half minute form. And so we’ve kind of always taken a bit of pride in trying to push ourselves and challenge ourselves to find new ways to experiment within the form.”

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UPLOADED Jan 21, 2022 11:37 am