‘Joker’ Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir Is First Solo Woman to Win Golden Globe for Score

Hildur Guðnadóttir won the Golden Globe for best original film score for her work on “Joker” — the first woman to do so as a solo composer in the history of the Globes.

The only woman to share in the honor previously was Lisa Gerrard, a co-winner with Hans Zimmer in 2000 for “Gladiator.” The last woman to be nominated was Karen O, who shared a nod with Carter Burwell in 2009 for “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Guðnadóttir is breaking the logjams in scoring awards and nominations at other awards shows in a big way, too. She recently won an Emmy for scoring “Chernobyl,” a TV assignment that currently has her up for a Grammy as well. She’s expected to be a shoo-in for at least a nomination for “Joker” at the upcoming Academy Awards.

Guðnadóttir is nominated for “Joker” and “Chernobyl” at the Society of Composers and Lyricists’ awards, happening Tuesday night at the Skirball Center.

“I’m speechless. This is unbelievable,” she said, accepting her Golden Globe. “Thank you, Todd (Phillips, the director), for inviting me on the journey of a lifetime, for all the trust and faith and your openness.” She also thanked Joaquin Phoenix for “making my job easy.”

Backstage, Guðnadóttir credited the recent focus in the entertainment industry on gender equality for opening up high-profile opportunities for her. She’s been working as a film and TV composer for 20 years.

“It’s been a beautiful year,” she said of her work on “Chernobyl” and “Joker.” “It’s incredible to get both opportunities at the same time,” she said. “Both projects were so different and incredible and so all-encompassing.”

Earlier in her career, she sensed “a bit of wariness” about giving female composers big assignments. But that has changed. “I believe because all the awareness raised in the last couple of years that I have definitely benefitted from a lot of that. People are just a bit more open toward trusting women.”

Her “Joker” score topped nominations for such estimable composers as Alexandre Desplat (“Little Women”), Randy Newman (“Marriage Story”), Thomas Newman (“1917”) and Daniel Pemberton (“Motherless Brooklyn”).

She spoke with Variety recently about the unusual score. “In the beginning, you feel like you’re listening only to a solo cello, but there are almost 100 people playing throughout the score,” she said. “As the film develops, the orchestra steps more and more in front and, by the end, kind of suffocates the cello. This poor guy gets so angry, and the orchestra gets angry with him; everything gets louder and more aggressive, and the music really punches you in the face.”

The composer performed all of the cello passages in her Berlin studio. It was then mixed together with the orchestra, recorded later in New York.

Speaking recently with moderator Jon Burlingame at Variety‘s Music for Screens conference, Guðnadóttir revealed that Phillips discovered her music in “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” and sought her out for “Joker” while he was writing the script.

Said, Guðnadóttir, “I told him, if you’re looking for someone to do an action movie, I’m not really sure if I’m the right person. He told me to just read the script and take it from there.” Phillips played Guðnadóttir’s score on set, so every scene of Joaquin Phoenix dancing, especially the bathroom scene, is Phoenix reacting to the music in real time.

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