La La Land cleaned up at last night’s Critics’ Choice Awards, as Damien Chazelle’s gorgeous musical took home a whopping eight accolades. The awards ranged from best picture to best director, but La La also earned trophies for both best song (“City of Stars”) and best score for its sweeping, old Hollywood-inspired soundtrack.
Before he took the stage to accept the award for best song, EW caught up with the musical’s maestro, composer Justin Hurwitz, to ask him how he approached the film’s memorable music.
“I always start at the piano before I orchestrate anything,” he explained. “I’m always just working at the piano trying to find the melodies, and that can be a very, very long process. I spent about two years composing the music before we even shot the movie. I did a little over 1,900 piano demos, just trying to find themes that we think are going to stick in people’s minds.”
“City of Stars” may have won the Critics’ Choice Award (and earned a best original song nomination from this year’s Golden Globes), but the film is packed with dreamy melodies, and Hurwitz says he has a particular favorite.
“’Audition (The Fools Who Dream)’ is really special for me,” he revealed. “I really connected with what it was about. In Damien’s screenplay, Emma’s character is frustrated with the process of trying to be an actress, and she’s sort of given up on her dream for a little bit. She comes back for this last audition, and she starts talking about this aunt who inspired her, this aunt who never gave up on her art. It’s the composition that I’m proudest of, but it also came out the most quickly. I wasn’t bashing my head against the piano like I was for other songs because I felt so inspired as I was doing it.”
He added that it was Emma Stone’s performance of “Audition” that really transformed it into something powerful.
“She sang it entirely live on set,” Hurwitz said. “What you’re hearing is not a studio recording. She’s not lip synching. She’s singing it in front of the camera and bringing so much emotion to it and acting it as she’s singing it, and it really created a special scene out of it.”
See the full list of this year’s Critics’ Choice Awards winners here, and watch Hurwitz’s Critics’ Choice acceptance speech below.
Reporting by C. Molly Smith.