×

Alexandre Desplat Talks Searching for the Soul of ‘Philomena’

Each film has a soul and the composer’s job is to find and express it, said Alexandre Desplat Sunday at what was probably the last, and certainly one of the best, awards-season event.

In a private room in the Polo Lounge, Desplat sat with about 70 guests in a conversation about “Philomena,” for which he earned his sixth Oscar nomination. During his Q&A period, which was interspersed with piano performances, he also discussed his other pics, his collaborations with Stephen Frears (this is their fourth work together), and the differences between working on European and Hollywood films.

The soul of Philomena” was Judi Dench’s performance, he said. The film was very difficult to score, because the real Philomena Lee is a woman of “great strength, great dignity,” and he wanted to honor her and Dench’s work with his music. “I wanted something very simple, restrained.” He added that orchestration is just as important as the melody, if not more so and he was careful to ensure that the size of the orchestra would not overwhelm the piece.

The conversation, in which he spoke with Ashley Irwin, president of the Society of Composers & Lyricists, was punctuated with pianist Randy Kerber playing excerpts from various Desplat scores. The composer occasionally stepped over to the piano to demonstrate his unexpected use of bossa nova elements in scores for “The King’s Speech” and “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” and jazz chords in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

While the awards season offered endless Q&A’s and events “in honor of” a person or film, few offered as many insights as this Weinstein Co. afternoon, which shed light on the Oscar contender  as well as his challenges, solutions and insights into the nominated work.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Maelle Arnaud

    Lumière Chief Programmer Maelle Arnaud: 'Film History Doesn't Have Parity'

    LYON– As Lumière Institute head programmer since 2001, Maelle Arnaud helped launch the Lumière Festival in 2009 and has watched it grow in international esteem over then decade that then followed. This year, the festival 190 films in 424 screening spread out all over town. It will come to a close this coming Sunday, but [...]

  • Girl with Green Eyes

    Talking Pictures TV: Bringing the Past Back to Life in the U.K.

    LYON, France – Since its launch in 2015, Talking Pictures TV has become the fastest-growing independent channel in the U.K. with a growing library of British film and TV titles that span five decades, according to founder Noel Cronin. Noel Cronin attended the Lumière Festival’s International Classic Film Market (MIFC) in Lyon, France, where he [...]

  • Wings of Desire

    German Heritage Sector Applauds Increased Digitization, Preservation Funding

    LYON, France  — Germany’s film heritage sector is celebrating a new federal and state-funded initiative launching in January that will provide €10 million ($11.15 million) a year towards the digitization and preservation of feature films. Rainer Rother, the artistic director of the Deutsche Kinemathek, outlined the plan at a panel discussion at the Lumière Festival’s [...]

  • 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    Film Review: 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    In one of the intermittent revealing moments in “QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight,” a documentary about the films of Quentin Tarantino that’s like a familiar but tasty sundae for Quentin fans, we see Tarantino on the set of “Pulp Fiction,” shooting the iconic dance contest at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. As John Travolta and Uma [...]

  • Zombieland Double Tap

    Why Emma Stone Was Haunted by Fear of Vomiting While Shooting 'Zombieland: Double Tap'

    SPOILER ALERT: The following story contains a slight spoiler for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” The zombie slayers are back! Ten years after Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin first killed dead people walking in “Zombieland,” they’ve reunited for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” “You take stock of your life a little bit,” Stone says of [...]

  • Hereditary

    The Best Horror Films to Stream Right Now

    Good horror movies aren’t always easy to scare up, but with Halloween on the horizon, Variety has compiled a list of some of the best horror films available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. NETFLIX Apostle Cult horror meets religious hypocrisy in this creepy gothic thriller, which follows prodigal son Thomas Richardson, who returns home [...]

  • Brett Gelman

    'Stranger Things' Star Brett Gelman Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse'

    Brett Gelman, best known for his scene-stealing roles in “Fleabag,” “Stranger Things” and “Love,” has joined Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse.” Jamie Bell and Jodie Turner-Smith are also on board. Jordan is starring as operations officer John Clark, also known as John Terrence Kelly, a former Navy SEAL who [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content