Icelandic composer and cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir won the Oscar on Sunday night for her evocative Original Score for Todd Phillips’ Joker, becoming the first solo female to win the honor and capping a historic trophy-season spree in which she also won a Grammy, an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award in a span of less than five months.
“This is so touching,” Guðnadóttir said tearfully onstage, acknowledging Phillips and Joker producer Bradley Cooper in the audience. The 37-year-old musician added: “To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters who hear the music bubbling within, please speak up.”
Guðnadóttir’s avalanche of entertainment awards began a mere 140 days ago at the Emmys.
The Emmy in September and the Grammy in late January were for Guðnadóttir’s forlorn score for HBO’s Chernobyl, the celebrated five-part mini-series about the infamous 1986 nuclear catastrophe. The Globe, the BAFTA, and, now, the Academy Award, acknowledge the Joker score that title star Joaquin Phoenix has cited as a pivotal inspiration for his landmark performance.
Guðnadóttir’s win was greeted by a standing ovation at the Dolby Theatre, where the representation and recognition of women in Hollywood was a recurring topic at the microphone. The award was presented to Guðnadóttir by Sigourney Weaver, Brie Larson, and Gal Gadot, a trio of actresses closely associated with big-screen female heroes in spectacle films.
Phoenix said Guðnadóttir’s music was a key factor in his crafting of his character, the disaffected and disturbed Arthur Fleck, a feckless stand-up comic in Gotham City who descends into madness and emerges as the unfunny killer clown known as the Joker.
Joker director and co-writer Phillips also took a offbeat approach with Joker when he set the script to Guðnadóttir early in the process to secure a sonic signpost that would give his title star direction during his search for the harrowing screen persona.
During the Oscars ceremony, which aired on ABC, a medley of selections from the year’s nominated scores (Joker, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Jojo Rabbit, 1917, was performed by an orchestra conducted by Irish composer Eímear Noone. It was the first time in Oscars history that a woman has conducted the show’s orchestra.
Here is Guðnadóttir backstage: