For Thomas, a 14-time Oscar nominee, and Randy, a two-time winner, with 20 nominations to his name, this morning’s pair of nominations within the same category represent a first. While the composers both were in Globes contention in 2000—Thomas, with his score to Sam Mendes’ American Beauty, and Randy with his Toy Story 2 song, “When She Loved Me”—the pair have only previously gone head-to-head once before, at the Academy Awards in 1996. That year, Thomas’s Unstrung Heroes score went up against Randy’s music for the original Toy Story, though neither composer took home gold in the end.
So, how do the Newmans feel about competing once again in 2020, along the road to the Oscars? “Well, you know, Randy has just been such an amazing creative presence for so many years, and certainly in my life as his cousin,” Thomas told Deadline today. “It’s really an honor to be up with him, and it’d be fun to hang out with him, and just be there with him.”
“It’s different, you know?” Randy deadpanned, in a separate conversation. “I mean, I’d like to win, myself. But if I don’t, it might hurt a little less if Tom gets rewarded with it.”
Marking Thomas Newman’s seventh collaboration with Mendes, 1917 is a visceral World War I thriller, conceived as a one-take film, in which two young British privates embark on a mission deep into enemy territory, in hopes of communicating a message that could save 1,600 lives. For the film’s composer, 1917 was an undeniable challenge—one that he was only able to figure out as he went through the scoring process. “Sam started feeding me images maybe in May, and I would just start writing ideas. They would circle back to him, he would have comments, and we kind of learned as we went,” Newman shares. “So, it was a lot of trial and error.”
For Randy Newman, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story was an altogether different kind of challenge, but a challenge nonetheless. Starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, the Netflix drama is an expansive portrait of divorce—of a family staying together, even as the bonds between a couple fray. “It opens with eight minutes of music, the two montages, which is different and difficult,” Randy Newman said. “[But] it’s such a good picture, really, that that makes it easier.”
While Thomas has been collaborating with Mendes for 20 years now, Randy’s collaboration with Baumbach is much newer, beginning just a few years ago with his 2017 dramatic comedy The Meyerowitz Stories. “It’s been a really happy collaboration for me. I mean, he’s a really good guy to work for, if not the best I ever worked with, and he plays a big part in the process,” the composer explained. “His instincts for music got better and better as things went on, about deciding where it’s going to be, which is about as important as what it’s going to be.”
While up next for Thomas Newman are two projects by frequent collaborators—Steven Soderbergh’s Let Them All Talk and John Lee Hancock’s The Little Things—Randy Newman is looking at this point to realize a long-time passion project. “I had an idea a long time ago to do a musical about Jane Fonda, her life, and it’s still worth doing,” the composer and singer-songwriter shared. “I’m trying to write some stuff now; we’ll see how it goes.”
In a conversation with Deadline, the elder Newman also discussed his 24 years with Toy Story films, and saying a heartfelt goodbye to Sheriff Woody with Josh Cooley’s fourth installment of the franchise, released earlier this year. “Needless to say, no one thought this could happen,” Newman says of the mark the films has made on generations of moviegoers. “It’s entirely deserved, looking at the pictures themselves, and the emotional content of the last two has been good for me to work on. You know, that’s what music can really do.”
As for Woody, “You know, he hasn’t passed away, so he may recur at some point,” the composer adds. “But I imagine I might’ve passed away by that time. I don’t know.”
Next month, Thomas and Randy Newman will compete for Best Original Score with three other composers—Daniel Pemberton (Motherless Brooklyn), Alexandre Desplat (Little Women) and Hildur Guðnadóttir (Joker). We’ll have to wait until January 5 to see if either emerges victorious at the Globes this time around.