The eighth time is truly a charm for French composer Alexandre Desplat as he finally won an Oscar for Best Original Score after creating notes for an array of prolific Hollywood films from art house titles like The Girl With Pearl Earring to tentpoles like Godzilla. His win for Fox Searchlight’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, one of four wins on the night for the Wes Anderson pic.
For a while there, after the Academy crazily bypassed Desplat for his sublime scoring work on such Best Picture winners as Argo and The King’s Speech as well as contenders The Queen, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and Philomena, one feared Desplat might ultimately be on a track like Randy Newman’s at the Academy Awards. The Academy even notoriously overlooked him during one of his busiest years, 2011, when he racked up 10 scoring credits on such prolific films as The Tree Of Life, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 2, ultimately giving the Oscar to Ludovic Bource for The Artist, a newcomer to Hollywood from Desplat’s homeland of France.
But the losing streak ceased tonight for Desplat, known for his graceful, nuanced scores that don’t overpower a scene’s drama, but rather complements it. However, the Academy has been known to award scores that leave their voters humming, and Grand Budapest Hotel with its toe-tapping, bouncy string themes certainly did that. Many thought he would cancel himself out this year given that he was also up for The Imitation Game. That wasn’t the case. One of the last times a composer went up against himself and won was John Williams in 1977, when his score for Star Wars beat out Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.
Desplat didn’t have to go far in terms of creating the Balkan-Russian-Eastern European style of music: He credits the music from his childhood that his Greek mother played as well as his wife, a violinist, who took Desplat to music clubs where gypsy music was on the bill. Grand Budapest marks his third score with director Wes Anderson after Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom. “The thing with Wes is that the music is closely synced with the editing and the rhythm of the film,” said Desplat backstage after his win tonight.
Commenting on why he won this time around, Desplat said, “Each year there are five scores that are nominated. You do the best work that you can. You think about the music for the film you’re working now, not if you’re going to get a nomination or not. Sadly, I’m not the only composer in the world.”
Then deadpanning, he said, “I hope I will win for the next 20 years.”