Hildur Guðnadóttir Wraps Up Her Sweep of an Entire Season’s Worth of Scoring Awards

Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir’s Sunday night Oscar win completed her clean sweep of top show-biz awards over the past five months.

The Icelandic-born, Berlin-based cellist-composer won for her dark and disturbing “Joker” score. She also won the BAFTA on Feb. 2, the Critics Choice award on Jan. 12, the inaugural Society of Composers & Lyricists award Jan. 7, and the Golden Globe on Jan. 5, all for “Joker.”

She preceded those with an Emmy for the HBO miniseries “Chernobyl” on Sept. 15 and a Grammy for the soundtrack of that score on Jan. 26.

“It’s been overwhelming at times, I’m not going to lie,” she told SCL Oscar reception attendees on Saturday, just hours before her Academy Award victory.

Such a sweep may be unprecedented for a film and television composer. Michael Giacchino appears to come the closest, with an Oscar, Grammy, BAFTA and Critics Choice award for “Up” all in less than two months in early 2010. He has an Emmy, too — for “Lost” — but that came six years earlier.

It comes at a propitious time for women composers who, like many of their below-the-line counterparts in film and TV crafts, are struggling for visibility and representation. Five other women scored various films in the documentary feature, documentary short subject, and animated short categories, but their contributions were largely unheralded by comparison with Guðnadóttir’s accomplishment.

She is the third woman to win an Oscar for composing an original instrumental score. English composers Rachel Portman and Anne Dudley preceded her with music for “Emma” and “The Full Monty” in 1996 and 1997 respectively. (Marilyn Bergman won for the song score of 1983’s “Yentl” but she is a songwriter, not an orchestral composer.)

“Joker” director Todd Phillips hired her early, prior to shooting, and she wrote music based on a reading of the script. Phillips played some of her early demos on the set for star Joaquin Phoenix, who began dancing to it, and Academy voters clearly took notice.

Similarly, her unusual musical approach to “Chernobyl” — she visited the decommissioned Lithuanian nuclear power plant where the miniseries was filmed, recorded the sounds inside and then adapted them into a dramatic score — was much talked about and clearly impressed Emmy and Grammy voters.

Now 37, she is weighing offers for future film and television projects. She is expected to participate in a series of live-to-picture concerts of her “Joker” music beginning April 30 in London, and she continues to compose for the classical field (her most recent commission debuted in New York on Jan. 28).

As she said in her Oscar speech: “To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters who hear the music bubbling within, please speak up. We need to hear your voices.”

More Film

  • Parasite Movie

    'Parasite' Enjoys Record Box Office Boost After Oscar Wins

    Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” is reaping box office riches after its groundbreaking Oscar best picture win. The twisted South Korean thriller collected $5.5 million over the weekend, an exceptional 234% increase in ticket sales and the biggest post-Oscar boost for a best picture winner in the past decade. In the seven days since the Academy [...]

  • Nikita Pearl Waligwa

    Nikita Pearl Waligwa, Actor in Disney's 'Queen of Katwe,' Dies at 15

    Nikita Pearl Waligwa, an actor who appeared in Disney’s biographical drama “Queen of Katwe,” has died, according to BBC and the Ugandan newspaper Daily Monitor. She was 15. Waligwa had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016 and seemed to recover a year later. However, in 2019, another tumor was found. “Queen of Katwe” [...]

  • James Marsden and Sonic (Ben Schwartz)

    'Sonic the Hedgehog' Dominates Box Office With Mighty $57 Million Debut

    Paramount’s family film “Sonic the Hedgehog” ignited over Presidents’ Day weekend with $57 million in North America and $100 million globally, the biggest showing ever for a video game adaptation. “Sonic” is expected to earn $68-70 million through Monday, one of the best results for the holiday weekend. The better-than-expected start is even more notable [...]

  • Shaun the sheep

    How '80s Sci-Fi Films Inspired 'Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon'

    Shaun, everyone’s favorite sheep, is back, and this time he’s facing aliens and robots in “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon.” Directors Will Becher and Richard Phelan teamed together on this film for their first full-length collaboration. While the two have been working at Aardman Studios, Phelan’s background was as a story artist and Becher’s [...]

  • Sonic (Ben Schwartz) in SONIC THE

    Box Office: 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Speeding to $65 Million Opening Weekend

    “Sonic the Hedgehog” is speeding to a $65 million opening at the North American box office this President’s Day weekend, according to estimates. Paramount’s action-adventure, based on the Sega video game character, had been pegged to generate $40-45 million prior to its launch. Should estimates hold, it could break the $54 million record set last [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content