Composers for 'Beale Street,' 'Black Panther,' 'Mary Poppins Returns' & 'BlacKkKlansman' Talk 2019 Oscar Nominations

Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018
Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther.

Tuesday morning’s (Jan. 22) Oscar nominations for best original score includes some returning favorites -- Alexandre Desplat, Marc Shaiman and Nicholas Britell -- as well as first-timers Terence Blanchard and Ludwig Göransson.

Billboard talked to the nominees to find out how they got the good news and about working on their nominated project. 

Terence Blanchard, BlacKkKlansman
“I’d forgotten that the nominations were coming out today and my wife said, ‘I’m so nervous,’ and I said, ‘Why? And she said, ‘The nominations.’ And then my daughter was in the next room and I hear [her] scream, ‘Daddy got nominated, daddy got nominated!’" Spike Lee gave Blanchard specific ideas, which he married with his own as he watched a cut of the film. “The first thing Spike said was he wanted to have an R&B band be part of the orchestra, which is really good,” Blanchard says. “The first cut that he sent me, immediately, I’m thinking of Jimi Hendrix because I’m seeing those leather jackets and the afros and the bell-bottom pants and it brought me back to when I heard the recording of Jimi Hendrix playing the national anthem at Woodstock. I remember thinking that was one of the most patriotic, American things that I’d ever heard. I thought that had to be part of the sound of the score.” This is Blanchard’s first Oscar nomination, as well as Lee’s first best director nod. “It’s one of those things where I’m happy for him, I’m happy for [best film editing nominee] Barry [Alexander Brown]. I’ve been working with them for 30 years. I’ve been honored and blessed to be sharing this moment with Barry and Spike. It’s been a long road, but it’s been one we’ve been enjoying for a long time.”

Nicholas Britell, If Beale Street Could Talk 
“I was watching [the nominations] with friends, and my mind just went blank” when his name was announced, says Britell, who was previously nominated for his work with Beale Street director Barry Jenkins on Moonlight. “It’s a crazy neurological phenomenon. It’s outside the course of normal circumstance. … Being able to continue our collaborative process from Moonlight into Beale Street was a joy in and of itself, to keep going on this artistic journey with Barry. As far as how we approach things, it’s very much a learning experience for both of us. We don’t know what the sound is going to be when we start and we start with these initial instincts. In particular, Barry has these amazing initial ideas and feelings, and in the case of Beale Street, it was this feeling of brass and horns that he was imagining. Barry is really adept at giving these specific kinds of ideas that he’s looking for. My assignment is taking these ideas and feelings and trying to translate those into notes and into sounds and into these musical landscapes. There’s a real trust there, and Barry’s my guide.”

Alexandre Desplat, Isle of Dogs
"I am speechless, grateful and honored that the music branch has chosen me for yet another fantastic collaboration with Wes Anderson,” Desplat said in a statement. “Wes is a wonderful artist and composing for his films always challenges me, taking me far from any expectations. … Congratulations to Fox Searchlight and to my fellow nominees."

Ludwig Göransson, Black Panther
Göransson and his wife watched the nominations on his iPhone in Los Angeles. “We were stunned, shocked. I still have to pinch myself,” he told Billboard. His way into the world of Wakanda was through a trip he took to West Africa. “I went to Senegal, and [Senegalese singer and guitarist] Baaba Maal kind of took me on a tour for a week. Me and my wife took a plane to Senegal. We traveled for 15 hours on a flight. Get to Dakar, jumped in a car and took a 15-hour car trip in the middle of nowhere, we’re on these dirt roads, it’s pitch black dark. He finally starts singing at 4:30 in the morning at this festival. It’s just him and a piano. It’s the first music we heard since we landed, and that feeling was so hypnotizing. I got crazy goose bumps, and the energy around us was ecstatic. It was like a religious experience. When I heard that, I was like, 'If there’s any way we could have that feeling in Black Panther in the music, I’d be happy.' And that’s what we did. That’s how we open up the movie. That’s Baaba Maal singing.”

Marc Shaiman, Mary Poppins Returns
“We knew that the language of the [original Mary Poppins] film had to continue as well as it could,” says Shaiman, who has been nominated five times previously. He is also nominated for best original song for Mary Poppins Returns’ "The Place Where Things Get Lost,” co-written with Scott Wittman. “For me, as someone who loves film scoring, the work of the man named Irwin Kostal, who scored the original film and did all the orchestrations and arrangements, his work has been equally in my heart and fingers and brain since I was 4 years old, so we knew that it had to live in the same neighborhood, Cherry Tree Lane. It couldn’t sound like it was from a whole new dimension and that was intimidating because we knew we would be compared to something that is incomparable and that was daunting to say the least.” Should Shaiman win, he will have achieved an EGOT, having previously won an Emmy, Grammy and Tony.

2019 Academy Awards