A year to remember

Past and future bright for four-time Oscar nom

If you want to know how much of a force songwriter Diane Warren has become in the film biz, look no further than Miramax’s fall release “Music of the Heart.”

The Wes Craven-helmed drama starring Meryl Streep and Gloria Estefan had the working title “50 Violins.” But when Craven, Producer Marianne Maddalena and others heard the song Warren penned for Estefan, they were so moved that they retitled the film.

“Harvey Weinstein (had) called her up and asked her to write a song. At the time we didn’t have a cut of the film, but we showed her a trailer,” says Maddalena. “The next day she called up and had the lyrics. It was just the kind of “To Sir With Love” inspirational theme we wanted. A couple months later we were looking around for a title and someone suggested the song.”

It was a perfect match, which is also how Maddalena describes a project including the talents of Warren and Streep.

“It’s the same thing, you realize there are people with superhuman powers — artists who can really tap into something else. It’s scary.”

What’s more, the song “Music of My Heart” wound up nominated for a Grammy, the fourth straight year that Warren has scored a Grammy nom. It’s also widely seen as a likely Oscar nominee, which would give Warren four years in a row with that honor and five Oscar noms in her career.

“Music” is just one of many high-profile recent film credits for Warren. In 1999 alone, her songs appeared in “Notting Hill,” “Detroit Rock City,” “Message in a Bottle,” “Anywhere But Here,” “Runaway Bride,” “Stuart Little” and more.

“What I loved last year is the diversity of the artists I’ve worked with,” Warren says. “It was everyone from ‘N Sync to KISS to Trisha Yearwood. That mix keeps my writing fresh.”

A wide spectrum of talent is drawn to Warren in large part because of her mantel full of trophies.

She won a Grammy in 1997 for “Because You Loved Me,” a song she wrote for the film “Up Close & Personal.” In both 1998 and ’99, she copped ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards for tunes appearing in “Armageddon,” “Space Jam” and “Con Air.”

Oscars have eluded her, despite noms for “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” from “Mannequin” in 1988, “Because You Loved Me,” “How Do I Live” from “Con Air” in 1998 and “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” from “Armageddon” in 1999. Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced “Armageddon,” called on Warren again to write a track for this summer’s “Coyote Ugly.” She’s also lined up to work on “Pearl Harbor,” another Bruckheimer film in the works at Disney with “Armageddon” helmer Michael Bay.

On Jan. 21, Miramax’s “Down To You” will bow with one of Warren’s songs. Later this year, “Boys and Girls,” another Miramax release, will feature her work.

As her movie music keeps gaining influence, Warren also writes plenty for pop albums. She’s teaming with soul thrush Patti LaBelle on a concept album called “When a Woman Loves” that’s slated for a May release. Recordings of her songs are due in 2000 from Toni Braxton, Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige and Christina Aguilera.

One of the Aguilera songs, “I Turn To You” was originally recorded by All 4 One for the film “Space Jam” but never released as a single. The song will be the next single from Aguilera’s eponymous debut album.

“That’s proof of the life of a good song,” she says.

The episode demonstrates Warren’s belief that movies can be an even more fickle field than pop.

“There are so many more opinions,” she says.

Warren got a dose of that in 1998, when she lined up Ricky Martin to sing a song she wrote for Universal’s hit pic “Patch Adams.” Rod Stewart ended up at the microphone.

“The producers didn’t know who Ricky was,” Warren recalls. “I knew he was going to be big but I didn’t know he was going to be that big. He was really eager to do the song but it never happened.”

That story suggests Warren could easily segue into the career of a multi-hyphenate.

With her feel for auds’ tastes, not to mention her awards and ties to A-list stars, she could be scoring, producing, co-exec producing, directing and music supervising. Maybe even all on the same project.

Instead, she says she’d rather keep on writing songs.

“I wouldn’t know the first thing about all that other stuff,” Warren says. “I’ve seen a lot of people spread themselves too thin. I just want to be great at what I do.”

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