Lady Gaga’s Oscar Contender ‘Til It Happens to You’ Is an Anthem for a Movement

After being raped at 19, she and songwriter Diane Warren have turned a painful experience into the power of music.

Nearly a year ago on “The Howard Stern Show,” Grammy Award-winning recording artist Lady Gaga revealed that she was raped when she was 19 years old. Now, with all the emotion that came with that experience and as much empathy as she can put into words and music for those who have endured the same, she and seven-time Oscar nominee Diane Warren have crafted a song that serves as something of an anthem for the cause.

Til It Happens To You” from Kirby Dick’s recently Oscar-shortlisted documentary “The Hunting Ground” is one of the strongest contenders in this year’s race for best original song, yes. But far more than that, it is a rally cry for a movement.

“Being nominated for awards and things like that, they’re useful to move messages forward,” Lady Gaga said at a Beverly Hills luncheon and private performance of the tune Tuesday afternoon. The room was full of members of the Academy’s music and documentary branches. Dick, in fact, learned of the film making it onto the final list of 15 documentary feature contenders while chatting about its themes of institutional protection with those seated at his table.

“When Diane first played me what she had begun with the song, I needed no convincing about the record… it was about sharing that part of myself with the world,” Lady Gaga said. “We talked a lot about what I felt the song needed in order to reach as many young people as possible. I felt that it needed to not stay in a purely emotional state, but that it was going to somehow grow throughout the performance and the song and by the end, kind of be full of rage.”

She said she used to feel awkward and even guilty when talking about her experience with rape, but now it’s something that is part of her, that she has triumphed over. Warren helped her feel comfortable with that and to put the depth of emotion into a song that could reach beyond the world of the film and become something more.

“I feel like what this song accomplishes is women — or men — rising to say, ‘You think you can hurt me? You don’t know about power,'” Lady Gaga said. “‘Because after what you did to me, you don’t even know how much stronger I am.'”

Warren’s first Oscar nomination came in 1988 for the song “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” featured in the film “Mannequin.” She is a consistent favorite of the branch, having most recently been nominated last year for “Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights.”

The songwriter said she frequently receives notes and Tweets from people who have either been raped or are close to those who have. She read one such correspondence from an individual whose friend had been drugged and gang-raped, and who found in the song the realization that she was not alone in her time of crisis. “I mean, that’s what it’s all about,” Warren said.

More Film

  • A woman prays at a makeshift

    Japan Expresses Its Grief Over Deadly Kyoto Animation Arson Attack

    Fellow animators and others in the Japanese entertainment industry have expressed their sorrow and solidarity with Kyoto Animation, the well-respected anime studio that suffered a horrific arson attack and the deaths of dozens of staffers. “We are all fellows in the same boat. If we continue to create without being afraid, we will find solace [...]

  • For Lineup Story

    Billie Piper's Directorial Debut, 'Rare Beasts,' to Bow in Venice Critics' Week

    “Rare Beasts,” the directorial debut of British stage and screen actress Billie Piper (“Doctor Who,” “Penny Dreadful,” “Collateral”) is set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival’s Critics’ Week, which has unveiled its lineup of nine first works, four of them from female filmmakers. Produced by Vaughan Sivell of Western Edge Pictures in association with [...]

  • 'Mientras dure la guerra' -Rodaje Modmedia-

    Alejandro Amenabar, Ricardo Darin, Paco Cabezas Bound for San Sebastian

    MADRID  –  Alejandro Amenábar, Ricardo Darín and Paco Cabezas, director of episodes from “Peaky Blinders” and “American Gods,” look set to join Penelope Cruz, already confirmed as a Donostia Award winner, at this year’s 67th San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival. The biggest movie event in the Spanish-speaking world, this year’s San Sebastian runs Sept.20-28. Amenábar’s [...]

  • Pinewood Studios James Bond

    Netflix's Shepperton Studios Deal Is Stretching the U.K.'s Production Limits

    Netflix’s huge new hub at Shepperton Studios outside London is a further fillip for Britain’s booming production sector. Amid jitters over Brexit and its effects on the economy, the streaming giant’s commitment is a vote of confidence in the U.K. entertainment industry and a continuing source of local jobs. But the decision by Netflix to [...]

  • Bottom of the 9th

    Film Review: ‘Bottom of the 9th’

    Nearly two decades after scoring an audience award at Sundance for “Two Family House,” a smartly understated yet deeply affecting indie about a Staten Island factory worker who deeply regrets stifling his showbiz ambitions, director Raymond De Felitta steps back up to the plate with “Bottom of the 9th,” another dramatically solid and emotionally satisfying [...]

  • Endemol Shine Builds ‘The Bridge’ in

    Endemol Shine Builds ‘The Bridge’ in Africa (EXCLUSIVE)

    DURBAN–Endemol Shine Group has sold the rights to adapt its critically acclaimed and highly popular Nordic Noir detective series “The Bridge” to Cape Town-based production company Both Worlds Pictures, Variety has learned exclusively. The series will feature an all-African cast and will be set around the Beit Bridge border crossing between South Africa and Zimbabwe. Originally known [...]

  • Durban Film Fest 2019

    Durban Fest Hails Film as ‘Conscience of Our Nation’

    DURBAN–When Ros and Teddy Sarkin raised the curtain on the first Durban Intl. Film Festival 40 years ago, the odds were long that their scrappy fest would survive its inaugural edition. The apartheid government and its draconian censorship board had a stranglehold on the films that reached South African theaters, banning the sorts of subversive [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content