Oscar Nominee Diane Warren on Her 7 Biggest Movie Songs

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Warren wrote the Oscar-nominated “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” from Armageddon

Diane Warren doesn’t always need to see a movie before she can write a song for it. Sometimes, it’s a matter of reading the script. Other times, “I just hear about it and it inspires me,” she tells Yahoo Movies. Last month, the 58-year-old songwriter received her seventh Oscar nomination in the Best Original Song category for “Grateful,” a song she penned for the end credits of the romantic drama Beyond the Lights. While Warren is frustrated that “Grateful” (recorded by Rita Ora) has not been released as a single, she’s thrilled to be back in the Oscar ring for the first time since 2002.

Diane Warren with Oprah Winfrey and fellow Best Song nominee Common at the Academy Awards Nominee luncheon on Feb. 2

Not that Warren, a twelve-time Grammy nominee, hasn’t kept busy: The astonishingly prolific composer-lyricist writes for a full roster of A-list talent, including Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, Mariah Carey, Carrie Underwood, and Kelly Clarkson, to name just a few. Her most recent movie tune is “Til It Happens to You,” a collaboration with Lady Gaga for the documentary The Hunting Ground, which premiered at Sundance. In anticipation of the Academy Awards on February 22, Yahoo Movies asked Warren to discuss all seven of her Oscar-nominated hit songs, from “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” to “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” to “Grateful.”

“Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” from Mannequin (1987)

Co-written with Albert Hammond and performed by Starship, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” was penned for Mannequin, a romantic comedy about a struggling artist (Andrew McCarthy) whose department-store creation (Kim Cattrall) comes to life. “That’s the first song I ever got nominated for, almost 30 years ago, and it became like a little classic, didn’t it?” says Warren. “It got me into the Academy. And it was my first loss!” Last year, Warren was invited to the premiere of The Skeleton Twins to watch “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” return to the big screen, this time as a lip-sync duet between Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. “That was so f—-ing cool,” she raves.

“Because You Loved Me” from Up Close & Personal (1996)

The tearjerker Up Close & Personal charted the doomed relationship between a news reporter (Michelle Pfeiffer) and the boss that made her a star (Robert Redford). As recorded by Celine Dion, the song “Because You Loved Me” quickly took on a life of its own outside the poorly received film. “In the movie, [the song plays] when Robert Redford dies, and he had been Michelle Pfeiffer’s mentor, so it was her song to him,” says Warren. “Then it became a wedding song. To me, the biggest songs are ones that could work at weddings and funerals.”

“How Do I Live” from Con Air (1997)

The ballad “How Do I Live” was written for Con Air, the Nicolas Cage action film about a plane hijacking. According to Warren, it was one of “probably 200 songs” written by various artists for the final scene of that movie. “It’s kind of a funny story: I had run into Leann Rimes, and I said, ‘Hey, Leann, I wrote this song for Con Air.’ I didn’t say I’d written one of 200; I kind of acted like it had been picked already as the song,” Warren tells Yahoo Movies. Rimes, who had just won the Best New Artist Grammy at age 14, proceeded to record the song and shot a video, as Warren became increasingly nervous that producer Jerry Bruckheimer would make a liar out of her.

As it turned out, Bruckheimer did like the song — but not the recording. He demanded changes, which Rimes’ manager-father refused to give him, so Bruckheimer had Trisha Yearwood record a new version for the film. Meanwhile, Rimes followed through with the plan to release her own recording of “How Do I Live” as a single. “[Bruckheimer] was mad at me because I wasn’t pulling the song from Leann, Leann was mad because Trisha did it – I mean, everybody really hated me,” Warren recalls. “And then everybody really loved me.” Rimes’ version of the song became a no. 1 pop hit and spent a record-breaking 69 weeks on the Top 100, while Yearwood’s version climbed to No. 2 on the country charts.

“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” from Armageddon (1998)

After the Con Air debacle, “Jerry Bruckheimer said he’d never work with me again. Until a year later, when I did ‘I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing,’” says Warren. “But you know, it was such an honor to have Steven Tyler sing my song.” The tune from the apocalyptic blockbuster Armageddon became Aerosmith’s first-ever No. 1 single, though Warren didn’t write it with a rock band in mind. “If you heard the demo, it sounded like a Celine Dion song,” Warren admits. She also praises the “really amazing use” of the song in the 2002 raunch comedy The Sweetest Thing, a scene with an unmentionable premise that the director shot without first getting permission to use the song. “The director came over with the music supervisor and he goes, ‘We shot this scene using your song and we’re not sure you’re gonna like it.’ So I watch it. And I go, ‘I’m really mad. I’m mad that I wasn’t in that scene!’ That’s one of my favorite uses of the song so far.”

“Music of My Heart” from Music of the Heart (1999)

“I was really proud of that one,” Warren says of the ballad recorded by ‘N Sync and Gloria Estefan. “And the cool thing is, the movie was called 15 Violins or something, and they re-named the movie after my song.” Music of the Heart featured an Oscar-nominated performance by Meryl Streep as Roberta Guaspari, a concert violinist turned inner-city music teacher. The song “Music of My Heart” functions as a tribute to Guaspari, but Warren says she wrote it with someone else in mind. “I’d just reconnected with a counselor from camp that was a really supportive person, so she inspired it a little bit, and the movie inspired it a little bit,” she says. “Meryl Streep’s character was so great and so encouraging, so I wanted to write a song where you’re thanking someone for that.”

“There You’ll Be” from Pearl Harbor (2001)

“I’d read the script and got inspired to write the song,” Warren says of “There You’ll Be,” written for director Michael Bay’s World War II drama. “And Jerry Bruckheimer drove me nuts during that process. He made me rewrite it like, 15 times.” After extensive rewrites, Warren performed the song for Bruckheimer and Bay at the studio of Hans Zimmer, who wrote the film’s score. “And Jerry goes, ‘It’s still not right.’ And Michael Bay goes, ‘What do you mean it’s not right? What’s not right about it?’ So it was like this father-son battle,” Warren recalls. “It was really interesting. I think if Michael didn’t rebel against Jerry Bruckheimer at that exact moment that day, that song would’ve never gotten in there.” During rewrites, Warren says she went behind Bruckheimer’s back and offered the song to Faith Hill, who made it a crossover pop-country hit. “I thought that she’d be the right person. Even her name, ‘Faith,’ with the whole Pearl Harbor-Americana-country thing.”

“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights (2014)

Most of the music for Beyond the Lights — about a rising pop star (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who falls in love with an LAPD officer (Nate Parker) — was already in place when Diane Warren saw an early screening of the film. There was one thing missing: A final song to play over the credits. “Grateful” is written from the perspective of Mbatha-Raw’s character, as if she’s looking back at the struggles in her life with newfound appreciation. “When I do songs for movies, I want the song to really resonate within that movie and speak for that movie,” says Warren. “But I also [hope that] when someone hears the song, if they didn’t see the movie, that it can relate to their own life. A song like ‘Grateful’ — everybody goes through that. You know, you go through all this s—-, like a lot of stuff that’s really hard, and instead of being a victim, you just go, ‘You know what? It made me stronger. I’m grateful for that.’” Warren’s hope is that the song’s Oscar nomination gives Beyond the Lights, Gina Price-Bythewood’s critically acclaimed but little-seen film, a boost. “I’m hoping that this draws some attention back to her movie, as it should,” she says.

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Above: Warren (semi-)joking around at the Oscar nominees luncheon on Feb. 2.

Armageddon Image credit: Everett, Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images