“I Dreamed We Were Working on Another Film Together.” Hildur Guðnadóttir on Potentially Reteaming with Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix, Her Historic Golden Globes Win, and Why She Will Never Have a Team of Composers Working for Her.
Chaos seems to be the common theme surrounding Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir’s breakout year in Television and Film scoring. Her Emmy winning score for the Emmy winning HBO limited series Chernobyl followed the horrific true story of the 1986 Russian power plant nuclear meltdown. The subsequent fallout, both radioactive and political, was depicted brilliantly in the show and led to a global sensation not seen since the fever surrounding Stranger Things.
Guðnadóttir’s next chaotic venture was Todd Phillips’ R-rated Joker film. The billion dollar comic book film followed an anarchist social movement led by a mentally deranged clown, Arthur Fleck, in 1970s Gotham City. The gritty film scored big with audiences and critics, earning a record eleven Oscar nominations including Best Score.
Guðnadóttir’s Joker score has already earned her a Golden Globe award, making her the first solo female composer to win the award. It’s been a year of nonstop travel as Guðnadóttir oscillates from her home in Germany to New York and Los Angeles for screenings, press, and awards ceremonies.
Guðnadóttir carved out valuable time to speak with Awards Focus ahead of the Oscars, discussing her plans for the night of the ceremony, why she’s so protective of her process, and the importance of not overextending herself following her massive success.
Awards Focus: What’s your plan for Oscar night, are you bringing the whole family?
Guðnadóttir: Yes, I’m actually bringing my mother, our son, and my husband with me… it’ll be a very family oriented trip. I plan to enjoy the night no matter the outcome, it’s quite funny as I’m prove to taking off quite early at these things. I don’t party too much because I will just crash. I know myself, and I will probably back home before too late.
AF: This has been a chaotic year but in a very good way. How have you felt with all this focus and attention?
Guðnadóttir: It’s all been happening so fast, I don’t know that it’s really sunk in for me. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my fellow nominees as well as the other nominated artists from Joker.
AF: With Joker having eleven Oscar nominations, you’ll be seeing several of your colleagues at the ceremony. Who has been the most fun to get to know better?
Guðnadóttir: I’m just so impressed with everyone’s work from the film, it’s a real treat when we’re together because I’m normally working in Germany and rarely in LA. I will say we share some funny stories that should not be repeated to the press [laughs].
AF: Your Golden Globes win made history, what did that moment mean for you?
Guðnadóttir: It was a very great honor and I hope that this will send the message to people that anyone can be involved in this industry. I love that we are seeing more women work in film, and I’m honored to be one of them.
AF: With all this interest in you, do you plan to expand your scoring enterprise like several composers have these days, working with teams of people underneath you?
Guðnadóttir: No, no, no [laughs]. I am not someone who is working on ten projects at a time. I need to have focus and be present with my stories. That means only one story or two at the most. I really enjoy being part of the early DNA of my films and sharing my input like I did with Joker. My music for the bathroom dance scene was played on set as they filmed that. It was one of the earliest things I wrote, and very helpful for Joaquin [Phoenix] and Todd [Phillips] to have at their disposal.
AF: Arthur goes down a dark path in the film, were you worried about what message that might send?
Guðnadóttir: I was worried more about the media’s coverage on the film, it was like they were highlighting an opportunity for someone to do harm around the time of the premiere. Luckily, nothing happened and we’ve had a beautiful journey following the film’s release. Arthur Fleck is someone who succumbed to his dark side, which we all have within us. I think the Joker is a tragic story and Todd Phillips has highlighted the need for us to help each other.
AF: If WB succeeds in getting everyone on board for a sequel, are you on board?
Guðnadóttir: You know, I had a dream we were working on another film together, but not a Joker sequel. I will say that neither Todd or Joaquin would do anything that they couldn’t stand behind. I’m very interested in what will come from their discussions [with the studio].