After eight nominations for Hollywood’s top prize, French born musical composer Alexandre Desplat won his first Oscar— but not before giving a shout out to his Greek mother from the stage. Born to a Greek mother and French father who met while attending College at Berkeley, Desplat grew up in France with a budding love for Hollywood film music. He broke into the French film industry in the 1980s, before heading to pursue his dreams in Hollywood.
Desplat won the golden statuette at the Academy Awards for Best Original Score for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Ironically, he was up against himself in the same category for his score of The Imitation Game. One of the last times a composer went up against himself and won was John Williams in 1977, when his score for Star Wars beat out Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.
Many in show business agreed, this was a long-deserved win. For a while, the Academy bypassed Desplat’s work on such films as Argo, The King’s Speech, The Queen, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and Philomena.
The Academy even notoriously overlooked him during one of his busiest years, 2011, when he racked up 10 scoring credits on such prolific films as The Tree Of Life, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 2, ultimately giving the Oscar to Ludovic Bource for The Artist, a newcomer to Hollywood from Desplat’s homeland of France.
Desplat didn’t have to go far in terms of creating the Balkan-Russian-Eastern European style of music: He credits the music from his childhood that his Greek mother played while growing up.
“My mother is Greek, and ever since I was a baby, I heard Greek, Middle Eastern music. In fact, I wrote this type of music in the first film I scored. But I have a long relationship with Gypsy music and Balkan music,” Desplat told Deadline.
His love for Greek/Balkan/Gypsy music continued when he met his wife, violinist Dominique Lemonnier. “I met a violinist when I was young. She took me to these Gypsy and Russian clubs. And that woman became my wife. So I’ve been living with the violin, Balkans, all these instruments for many years. It’s in my DNA.”