Every year, mostly in November and December, Variety asks me to see a nonstop barrage of new movies and interview their composers. This year’s crop included Justin Hurwitz for Babylon, Marcelo Zarvos for Emancipation, Chanda Dancy for Devotion, Nicholas Britell for She Said, Ludwig Goransson for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Hildur Guonadottir for Tar, Terence Blanchard for The Woman King, Michael Abels for Nope, Benjamin Wallfisch for Thirteen Lives, and Michael Giacchino for The Batman.
Ludwig Goransson, the Swedish-born composer who won last year’s Oscar for his terrific music for Black Panther, resurfaces with an original score for the new Star Wars series The Mandalorian, which debuted on Disney+ on Nov. 14. Goransson invited me to his comfy, colorful studio for this Variety piece in which he discusses his fresh, unusual but effective musical approach for the series. Producer Jon Favreau chimes in with some behind-the-scenes thoughts on why Goransson was the right composer for the project.
The 91st Academy Awards are in the books at last. It was a joy to report on composer Ludwig Goransson’s victory in the original-score category, more than a year after I first called attention to his African-infused music for Black Panther in the pages of Variety. In the days leading up to the awards, we also broke the news about Alexandre Desplat’s inability to attend (recuperating from throat surgery) and about Bette Midler performing Marc Shaiman’s moving song “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns. My story about Sunday’s Oscarcast also discusses the L.A. Philharmonic’s performance of a touching John Williams piece from Superman (an Oscar nominee 40 years ago!) for the “In Memoriam” segment.
Just a week before he won two Grammy Awards (one for Song of the Year, one for Original Score), I interviewed Swedish composer Ludwig Goransson about his acclaimed, Oscar-nominated score for the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther. We shot it for Michael Coleman’s SoundWorks Collection at Goransson’s studio and incorporates on-location footage of him recording musicians in Africa. The day after the Grammy Awards, I discovered that Ludwig’s wins set a record for a musician working in two vastly different genres and wrote about it for Variety.
In a little over a week, we’ve seen the Golden Globe nominations for song and score; the Grammy nominations which, with its offbeat eligibility year, combines the best of this year with last; and the news about scores that were disqualified, for various reasons, from Oscar consideration. Here are three stories I wrote for Variety that summarize each: a quick analysis of the Golden Globe nominations in music; a look at Black Panther composer Ludwig Goransson’s surprising Grammy nods; and our annual look at what the Academy music branch has nixed for potential Oscar consideration.
On the eve of their triple Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Score and Best Song, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler, composer Ludwig Goransson and songwriter-producer Sounwave sat down with me for an in-depth conversation about their work on the biggest-grossing film of 2018. The occasion was a screening, co-sponsored by Disney and radio station KPCC, of Black Panther at Regal Cinemas at L.A. Live. It was great fun, and the attentive audience was a nice plus.
Variety, which has been making a much greater effort to cover the Hollywood music scene this year, launched its inaugural Music for Screens Summit on Tuesday, October 30. I was privileged to moderate the score-composer panel, which I dared to declare the most diverse ever — Turkish-born Pinar Toprak (who is starting Captain Marvel), Dutch composer Tom Holkenborg (about to unveil Mortal Engines), Swedish-born Ludwig Goransson (Black Panther), German-Iranian Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones), African-American composer Terence Blanchard (BlacKkKlansman) and New Yorker Marco Beltrami (A Quiet Place). It was a wide-ranging discussion, covering everything from diversity issues to film — and, by extension, film scores — becoming part of the ongoing cultural conversation in America. Video of the entire session is here.
This was one of my most fun Variety assignments of the year: Interviewing Swedish composer Ludwig Goransson about his music for Marvel’s Black Panther. I’ve known Ludwig since his USC days, which is where he met director Ryan Coogler; this was their third film together (after Fruitvale Station and Creed) and his most ambitious score yet. He spent a month in Africa researching, listening to and recording all kinds of musicians, giving the film an authentic and evocative African sound (coupled, of course, with a massive London orchestra and choir for that “cinematic” finish). The piece is illustrated with photos of Ludwig in Senegal; director Coogler chimes in with comments about the importance of music in the film.
My editor at Variety came up with an interesting angle, and one especially relevant in today’s world of sequels, spinoffs and reboots: what’s the role of music, and how do composers decide when and where to apply themes from previous films or TV shows? For this final story in our pre-nominations Oscar-music series, I received fascinating answers from John Williams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Thomas Newman (Spectre), Michael Giacchino (Jurassic World), Christophe Beck (The Peanuts Movie), Ludwig Goransson (Creed) and Joe Kraemer (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation).