Oscars: Will 'Carol,' 'Anomalisa' Composer Land Double Noms?

Anomalisa Still  - H 2015
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Anomalisa Still  - H 2015

Carter Burwell could nab two slots on the Oscar ballot (a feat that best original score winner Alexandre Desplat achieved last year) for scoring two vastly different films: a 1950s romance and a quirky existential comedy.

This story first appeared in a special awards season issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Carter Burwell has scored more than 80 films, including Where the Wild Things Are, Three Kings, No Country for Old Men and O Brother, Where Art Thou, but he has yet to land in the hallowed ring of Oscar-nominated composers.

This could be his year. Both his delicate score for Todd Haynes' Carol and his appropriately quirky work on Charlie Kaufman's stop-motion animation film, Anomalisa, are garnering notice from influential circles: Carol received a Golden Globe nomination for best original score, while voters for the Annie Awards, which honor animated works, named Burwell's Anomalisa score a finalist in the music in an animated feature production category. The members of the Los Angeles Film Critics couldn't decide between the two, so they simply named Burwell the recipient of the best music score award for both films.

If Burwell, 60, has any fears that his scores could cancel each other out with Academy voters, he has only to look to the reigning best original score winner, Alexandre Desplat, to quell his fears. The oft-nominated Desplat took home his first Oscar this year for Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel; Desplat also was nominated for his score for The Imitation Game. "I certainly don't worry about it," Burwell tells THR. "You could hardly come up with two films that were less alike than Carol and Anomalisa."

For Carol, he scored the movie chronologically. Haynes gave the composer little direction other than to send him compilation CDs of music from the '50s to steep Burwell in the period in which Carol takes place. "I started with the opening scene, and the very last scene was the last scene I [wrote]," Burwell says. "I have a road map both in my mind and on paper of how all the scenes are going to develop and intertwine, but I just don't know until I get there if it's really going to work." On Anomalisa, he crafted a new score distinct from the one he wrote in 2005 for the stage version. "Now that it's a very visual experience, it required writing new themes and new music," Burwell says. "We tried to keep the feel and the way we approached it like the original, but it's not the same music."

Burwell hopes the early notice portends good things when Oscar nominations are revealed Jan. 14, but he also is realistic. "It's looking as good as it ever has for me," he says. "But that doesn't by any means mean it's going to happen."