Oscar Artists: Desplat, Alexandre (Composer)–Two-Time Oscar Nominee in the Same Year

Of of the most accomplished composter working in Hollywood today, Alexandre Desplat won this season a BAFTA Award and a Grammy, both for Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

On February 22, he will attend the Oscar show, where he is nominated twice in the musical score category, for “Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Imitation Game.”

According to conventional wisdom, this is Desplat’s, having received six Oscar nominations in the past eight years, but not a single win yet.

Asked which of the two scores is his favorite, Desplat deadpans, “The Grand Imitation Hotel.”  The composer, who is based in Paris, quickly adds that he loves both films, and each presented special challenges and rewards.

“Grand Budapest Hotel” features a lot more music in its 100-minute running time, with the mood vacillating among drama, light comedy, fantasy and mittel-European atmosphere.

Desplat says, “We needed to find instruments to create a special sound, and our director Wes Anderson liked my idea of using cimbaloms, zithers, balalaikas and so on. Wes is very collaborative: He comes with specific ideas, and I suggest themes and ideas for orchestrations. It’s a very precise, almost surgical process, but we always have fun.”

“Imitation” was complex because of Alan Turing: “I had to capture his brain, which was so special.” And the film has many plot threads and time periods. “That was a real challenge, because the story is a complex puzzle, and the music allows us to give a push and flow to help the audience connect to all of them.” He has praise for director Morten Tyldum and adds, “Benedict Cumberbatch is so amazing — he is a driving force in the movie.”

His score for “Imitation” is trademark Desplat, with a wide range of emotions that connects everything in the film. Still, Oscar voters may give him an edge for “Budapest,” because it’s so distinct: If you listen to 30 seconds of the score, it could only be Desplat, and it could only be from this film.

he is not the first composer or artist to be nominated for two different works in the same year.

Distinguished composers, such as as Bernard Herrmann, Miklos Rozsa, Max Steiner and John Williams, have all scored two nods in the same yar.

Other Categories

Steven Soderbergh was twice nominated for the Best Director Oscar  in 2000,  for “Traffic” and for “Erin Brockovich”; winning for the fomer.

William Goldenberg was nominated  as Best Editor, for “Argo” and for “Zero Dark Thirty,” winning for “Argo.”

A.R. Rahman, for Best Song, winning for “Jai Ho” over “O Saya”;

Andy Nelson, sound mixing, winning in two different years, when he was a double nominee, for the 1993 “Saving Private Ryan” and the 2012 “Les Miserables.”

2014 Music Competition

This year, Desplat faces tough competition from:

Hans Zimmer (“Interstellar”), who has one win (“The Lion King”) in nine previous bids;

Gary Yershon (“Mr. Turner”);

Johann Johannsson (“The Theory of Everything”).

It’s the first nomination for those two.

Porlific Music by Demand

Desplat did five scores this past year, including one for Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken.” Jolie had said that he has an understanding of dialogue scenes that’s rare in composers. Desplat says, “I did a lot of theater, and you have to respect the text.  And I have done a lot of French films, in which dialogue is so important, you have to come in and out at the right moment.”

Desplat has frequently collaborated with Wes Anderson, as well as Stephen Frears and Chris Weitz.  He’s also worked with Kathryn Bigelow, David Fincher, Ang Lee, Terrence Malick, Jacques Audiard, Stephen Daldry, Jonathan Glazer and David Yates.

Aside from Desplat, other artists this year have received nomnations for two different films:

Anna Pinnock, for set decoration on both “Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Into the Woods”;

Jon Taylor and Frank A. Montano, part of the sound mixing teams on both “Birdman” and “Unbroken”;

Desplat says that he is simply thrilled to be nominated, and in that company of composers: “I’m really lucky to be standing there.”