This morning, Joker composer Hildur Guðnadóttir earned her first Oscar nomination, becoming one of only seven women in the award show’s history to be put up for Best Original Score.
“I think it’s just magnificent to be able to be a part of this conversation, and to shed some light to the situation of women in the industry, especially in this category, because it’s a little bit silly how few there are. It’s completely [incomprehensible] to me,” the composer told Deadline this morning. “So, I think it’s just wonderful to be a part of that conversation, and in the kindest way possible say, ‘Hey, isn’t this a bit ridiculous?’”
In recent years, Guðnadóttir has felt a change in the tide, when it comes to women represented in film music. “I do feel like, in the last [few] years, there’s been so much awareness about the position of women in this industry, and as a result of all that discussion, people are noticing the situation more. That’s the best place to start, is to talk about it,” she said. “But I think the way to make actual change is to start trusting women and giving them chances, and I think that’s actually started to happen.
“In the last five years or so, I’ve just felt such a difference in the way that people speak to me, for example. When I go to meet people in the industry, they’re like, ‘Wow, it’s amazing. You’re a female composer. That’s so cool, that’s so exciting,’ and that wasn’t the situation that I felt eight to 10 years prior,” the composer added. “I think people are just really opening up and starting to be more willing to take the so-called ‘risk’ of trusting women for this process.
From Guðnadóttir’s perspective, change in terms of representation only come with increased visibility for underrepresented groups. “When I was growing up in Iceland, my whole childhood, there was a female president. Then, my grandmother was one of the first women doctors in Iceland, and I think it’s in ways like that, that we see actual change happening. Because in my mind, there was no reason why women couldn’t be doctors, and why women couldn’t be president—and why women can’t be composers,” she laughs. “Of course, women can write music, and in an industry that’s all about telling stories—telling every single story under the sun—I think it should be an absolute given that we should celebrate every voice under the sun to tell all of these stories. I mean, women are half of the voices in the world.”
For the composer, the last year has been a whirlwind. Winning her first Emmy last year for HBO’s critically acclaimed limited series Chernobyl, Guðnadóttir then won a Golden Globe, a Critics’ Choice Award and an SCL Award for her Joker score, leading up to today’s nominations. With all this activity on the awards circuit, the composer has yet to pick her next project. “I did manage to work with a friend of mind—the visual artist, Olafur Eliasson—which is not film related, but it’s a really fun project. He’s opening an exhibition in Zürich, and I did a piece for a robot playing cello for his installation, which was really fun,” she shares. “That’s opening now, this week.”
If Guðnadóttir wins the Oscar for Joker, she will be the first female composer to take the prize for Original Score in more than 20 years. Since 1983, only three women have claimed the statuette—Yentl’s Marilyn Bergman, The Full Monty’s Anne Dudley and three-time nominee Rachel Portman (Emma, The Cider House Rules, Chocolat).
At the 2020 Oscars, the composer will contend with Thomas Newman (1917), Alexandre Desplat (Little Women), Randy Newman (Marriage Story) and John Williams (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker). Directed by Todd Phillips, Joker is a standalone origin story for one of DC’s most iconic villains. A box office smash, the film was met with 11 nominations today, with additional nods for Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Costume Design, Cinematography, Adapted Screenplay, Actor in a Leading Role, Directing and Best Picture.
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