Behind the Rise of Hollywood Composing Teams

Darrell Alexander

Schweitzer (with arm raised) and Waller-Bridge (in scarf) during the orchestra session for "Emma."

At this year’s ceremony, more composing teams than ever could be up for best score.

On Feb. 9, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reveals its shortlists in nine categories, there could be multiple composing teams in the running for best original score for the first time. Since the academy started revealing its shortlists in music categories in 2019, just two composing teams have been in the running: Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury for Annihilation (2018) and Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders for Ford v Ferrari (2019).

In the run-up to the 93rd annual Academy Awards, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who won best original score 10 years ago for The Social Network, have two strong candidates for this year’s category. They are the only pair to win for best original score in the past 20 years. This year, these nine composing teams are vying for a best original score nod.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Mank (Netflix), Soul (Pixar)

Since Reznor and Ross won an Oscar 10 years ago, the pair has also nabbed a Grammy Award for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (on top of two Grammys Reznor had won previously) and an Emmy Award last September for Watchmen. The rock musicians just need a Tony to achieve EGOT status.

Craig Harris and Mark Isham
Judah and the Black Messiah (Warner Bros.)

Isham is a trumpeter and synthesizer player who has scored dozens of films since 1983, including Nell and Crash. He was nominated in this category 28 years ago for A River Runs Through It. Harris is a jazz trombonist who has worked with such artists as Lena Horne, Sun Ra and The Roots. This is the first film they’ve scored as a pair.

Nicolas Becker and Abraham Marder
Sound of Metal (Amazon Studios)

Previously, Becker scored the 2018 documentary Hilda Hilst Pede Contato, and Marder scored the 2010 short The Dress. Marder also co-wrote the screenplay for Sound of Metal (about a heavy metal drummer who loses his hearing) with his brother Darius Marder, the film’s director. It is the first movie where they’ve teamed for a score.

Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran
Ammonite (Neon)

This is the sixth score collaboration in five years for O’Halloran and the German-born Bertelmann, who also goes by the name Hauschka. Their first pairing was Lion, for which they received an Oscar nod four years ago. O’Halloran and Bertelmann have a second film in contention, The Old Guard.

David Schweitzer and Isobel Waller-Bridge
Emma. (Focus Features)

This is the second feature film Waller-Bridge has scored, following Vita & Virginia. Schweitzer has composed scores for docs, animated films and dramas. The two previously teamed on Vanity Fair, a seven-episode series for ITV/Amazon. (Waller-Bridge is the older sister of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who won three Emmys in 2019 for her work on Fleabag.)

Jeff Danna and Mychael Danna
Onward (Pixar)

Mychael Danna won in this category eight years ago for Life of Pi. This is the 12th feature film he has scored with his younger brother Jeff. Others include Lake View Terrace and a reboot of The Addams Family. The siblings have also shared four Emmy nods.

Deborah Coleman / Pixar
Brothers Jeff Danna and Mychael Danna at an "Onward" scoring session.

Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans
The White Tiger (Netflix)

Last fall, Bensi and Jurriaans’ work on Ozark earned them an Emmy nomination for outstanding music composition for a series. The two musicians have composed scores for over 100 films or TV shows since 2010, including their breakthrough film, Martha Marcy May Marlene, starring Elizabeth Olsen and John Hawkes.

David Fleming and Hans Zimmer
Hillbilly Elegy (Netflix)

This is the ninth Ron Howard-directed film that Zimmer has scored. Prior to collaborating with New York-born composer Fleming, Zimmer worked on scores with dozens of other composers, including Harry Gregson-Williams, John Powell, Lisa Gerrard and Lorne Balfe.

Evgueni Galperine and Sacha Galperine
Radioactive (Amazon Studios)

Evgueni Galperine and his younger brother Sacha are Russian-born French composers. In 2011, they were nominated for a Goya Award for best original score for Eva. In 2017, they won a European Film Award for best composer for Loveless.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 30, 2021, issue of Billboard.