The year started off great for Lady Gaga, who picked up a Golden Globe Award in January for her work on “American Horror Story: Hotel.” And the gold rush could continue with her first Academy Award nomination, shared with Diane Warren, for best original song for “Til It Happens to You.” The song was written for Kirby Dick’s documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which examines the epidemic of rape on college campuses. It marks Warren’s eighth Oscar nomination; though she has yet to win, she was the writer of such hits as “How Do I Live” and “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”
The pair stopped by Variety’s studio en route to the luncheon for Oscar nominees on Monday afternoon and spoke about the highly personal project.
Were you up early for the Oscar announcement? How did you get the news?
Diane Warren: We were up. She texted me at 4 a.m. asking if I was up.
Lady Gaga: I was texting her from my bed. I was home and thinking I would just wait to find out when I woke up in the morning. But I woke up and kept looking at my cell phone to see what time it was. Then I got distracted working on the David Bowie tribute (for the Grammy Awards). I was creating the mix tape I was going to submit to Nile Rodgers and I had my headphones on and was getting really into it and I missed the very beginning of the nominations.
Warren: Are you kidding, it was the first category! I didn’t want to be alone so I had two friends over. And you were the first call I made.
Gaga: It was crazy, it was really special. I had the computer on my lap, working on Bowie’s music, and I already felt so honored and privileged to be doing that. And I looked up and saw “Til It Happens To You” on the screen.
Warren: I jumped around my house. This is the eighth time being nominated, but it doesn’t get less exciting. Especially for this song.
Gaga: We’re so happy the message is out there and that people are talking about it on a daily basis. That a song that has a message like that is being heard and not judged in the wrong kind of way.
Warren: It speaks to everybody, whether you’ve experienced sexual assault or you’ve been bullied – whatever trauma you have in your life – that you’re not alone.
How did you come to be involved with the project?
Warren: I felt compelled to be a part of it when I heard about it. I’ve had my own experiences with sexual assault and it spoke to me. I reached out to Gaga and I have to say, she was very brave to get involved.
Gaga: It was kind of a tumultuous magic, the whole thing. I think it’s impressive that two women will kind of fearlessly dive into the most horrific parts of themselves by choice to make something. This concept is, I think, powerful for any person. We all have things that we’ve been through and we’re not sure how we should feel about them.
It’s something that speaks to audiences very personally, as well.
Warren: We did a New York Times talk and I said, “How many people in the audience have dealt with this kind of thing?” There were more hands than not.
Gaga: I think people don’t really feel they can define it when it happens and you’re always afraid of what people are going to say.
Warren: And you feel you might be to blame in a weird way. And you’re not, you’re not to blame at all.
Gaga: Thank you to everyone who has supported the song and the film, thank you so much for caring about us.