‘Babylon’ Composer Justin Hurwitz Knew Film Would Be Divisive: ‘From Elephant Poop’ to ‘Bodily Fluids’

Awards Circuit Podcast: Also on this episode, actor Colin Farrell ('The Banshees of Inisherin') and the Roundtable break down the Andrea Riseborough controversy

Babylon” composer Justin Hurwitz knew the epic vision of his longtime friend and collaborator Damien Chazelle would be divisive. “It’s disappointing,” he tells Variety. “From the elephant poop through all the rest of the bodily fluids. I think we always knew the movie wasn’t going to be for everybody. It’s definitely disappointing that more people haven’t seen it in the theaters. I’ve read a lot of the reviews of people who absolutely love it. There are people who hate it. There’s a lot of in-between. I think it’s stunning. It’s not a conventional storyline.”

On this week’s episode of the award-winning Variety Awards Circuit Podcast, we sit down with music composer Justin Hurwitz, who’s coming off his fourth career Oscar nomination for “Babylon.” The Oscar-winner behind the iconic songs and music for “La La Land” (2016) discusses working on the 188-minute old Hollywood epic “Babylon,” as well as getting his start by writing episodes for TV shows such as “The Simpsons,” “The League” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” In addition, he talks about getting to meet his inspiration for becoming a film composer, John Williams, at this year’s Golden Globes. Listen below:

“Babylon” is an epic tale that traces the rise and fall of multiple people during the 1920s and 30s of old Hollywood as it transitions from silent films to talkies. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, it stars Diego Calva, Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt and Jean Smart. Distributed by Paramount Pictures, it’s been nominated for three Academy Awards for production design (Florencia Martin, Anthony Carlino), costume design (Mary Zophres) and original score (Hurwitz).

Hurwitz has worked with Chazelle on all of his films: “Whiplash” (2014), “La La Land” (2016), “First Man” (2018), and now, “Babylon.” His love for music began in Los Angeles, where he was born, before moving to Wisconsin. Still, legends like John Williams, who is also nominated alongside him for “The Fabelmans,” are his greatest inspiration. He met Williams at this year’s Golden Globe Awards after Steven Spielberg won best director and mentioned Williams during his speech. “I didn’t know if he was there,” Hurwitz says. “And then Spielberg pointed to the corner of the room…the second Spielberg stopped talking, I jumped up from my seat, and I ran across the room, and they were trying to whisk him out of the room.”

Hurwitz got to tell his idol that he was the reason he was a film composer and take a picture. Mission accomplished.

Also, on this episode, we sit down with Colin Farrell to discuss receiving his first Oscar nomination for playing Pádraic, the milk farmer with a lovable donkey, in “The Banshees of Inisherin.” In addition, the 46-year-old Irish star talks about his bombastic year, which included acclaimed performances in “After Yang,” “Thirteen Lives” and “The Batman,” where he played villainous foe The Penguin. He also reveals to Variety when he’ll begin filming the spinoff television series coming to HBO Max.

Finally, the Awards Circuit Roundtable breaks down the controversy and the latest news on Andrea Riseborough’s surprise inclusion for “To Leslie,” following the Motion Picture Academy announcing a “review” of campaign procedures and choosing not to rescind her nomination. What can we expect next from the story that gripped pundits for the last week?

Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, produced by Michael Schneider, who also co-hosts with Clayton Davis, is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives, discussions and debates about awards races, industry headlines, and much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post weekly.