Alexandre Desplat, Common and John Legend Among Winners at BMI's Film/TV Awards

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Alexandre Desplat

Oscar-winning composer Alexandre Desplat received BMI’s Icon Award Wednesday (May 14) at the performing rights society’s annual Film/TV Awards, held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. 

The Icon Award heralds composers who have made significant contributions to film and television music. Desplat, 53, joins such luminaries as John Williams, Danny Elfman, Mike Post, Alan Menken, John Barry and Alan Silvestri in receiving the honor.

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The French composer, who won the Academy Award for best original score for Grand Budapest Hotel in February, as well as the BAFTA and Grammy, told Billboard on the red carpet that he was honored to be in the company of so many of his musical heroes. “They are my idols and I dreamed one day of doing the work that they were doing. I never thought about the awards. For me, it was just about writing good music for great films and then one day, write music for a Hollywood film. So here I am and so I am really thrilled.”

In his acceptance speech, Desplat spoke fondly of the spell the jazz records that his French father brought to France after having studied in the U.S. cast over him as a young boy, including albums from Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. “It was difficult to [find] great jazz flute players,” said Desplat, who is also a flautist. “I would listen to great sax and trumpet and trombone players and copy their solos on my flute.” Among the projects coming up for Desplat is the 2016 Star Wars film, Rogue One.

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BMI also named Chris Montan, president of Walt Disney Music, recipient of its Classic Contribution Award in recognition of his three-decade career at Disney. During his tenure, Walt Disney Studios has received 16 combined Academy Awards for best song, best score and best musical. He has won two Grammy Awards.

A taped piece featuring tributes from artists/composers including Phil Collins, Randy Newman, Elfman and Menken highlighted Montan’s role in ushering in a new renaissance for Disney animation through such films as The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast, The Lion King, and, of course, Frozen. Though Walt Disney was dead long before Montan began working at Disney in 1984, he told Billboard that Disney had a trait that guides his work. “Optimism,” Montan said. “He just felt things could happen even when people told you they couldn’t. Walt believed if he liked something the audience would like it. I want to make music for everybody. I don’t want to exclude any age group.”

Hosted by BMI president/CEO Mike O’Neill and BMI VP, film/TV relations Doreen Ringer-Ross, BMI’s Film/TV Awards also recognized composers whose music appeared in the past year’s top-grossing films, and network and cable television programs. Composers receiving multiple awards included Desplat for Grand Budapest Hotel, Unbroken, Godzilla and The Imitation Game, and Brian Tyler for Furious 7 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as well as his TV work on Scorpion and Hawaii Five-0. Legendary TV composer Mike Post (The Rockford Files, Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue) received his 52nd BMI Film/TV Award, the most for any composer, for Law & Order: SVU.

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Among the other honorees were Common and John Legend, who were lauded in absentia for “Glory,” the Selma theme, which received best original song honors at this year’s Oscars. It was a big week for Legend: Tuesday night, BMI named his Billboard Hot 100 chart topper, “All of Me” which he co-wrote with Toby Gad, song of the year at its annual Pop Awards. 

A complete list of BMI Film/TV Awards winners can be found at bmi.com.


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