Alexandre Desplat

Alexandre Michel Gérard Desplat (French: [a.lɛk.sɑ̃dʁ dɛ.pla]; born 23 August 1961) is a French film composer, of Greek descent.[1] He has won two Academy Awards, for his musical scores to the films The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Shape of Water, and received eight additional Academy Award nominations, eight César nominations (winning three), nine BAFTA nominations (winning three), eleven Golden Globe Award nominations (winning two), and six Grammy nominations (winning two).

Alexandre Desplat
Alexandre Desplat
Background information
Birth nameAlexandre Michel Gérard Desplat
Born (1961-08-23) 23 August 1961
Paris, France
Occupation(s)Composer, orchestrator, conductor

Desplat has composed scores for a wide range of films, including low-budget independent productions and large-scale blockbusters, such as The Queen, The Golden Compass, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 & Part 2, The King's Speech, The Danish Girl, Moonrise Kingdom, Argo, Rise of the Guardians, Zero Dark Thirty, Godzilla, The Imitation Game, Unbroken, Little Women, The Secret Life of Pets, and Isle of Dogs.

Early life

Desplat was born in Paris, to a French father and a Greek mother who had met in the United States as students at the University of California, Berkeley.[2] They married in California and returned to France, settling in Paris. Alexandre was the third child, with two older sisters, Marie-Christine, also known as Kiki, and Rosalinda Desplat. In 1983 Kiki co-founded and leads the women's jazz band "Certains L'Aiment Chaud" (Some Like It Hot),[3]

At the age of five, Desplat began playing piano.[4] He also became proficient on trumpet and flute. He studied with Claude Ballif and Iannis Xenakis in France, and Jack Hayes in the United States. Desplat swiftly became a skilled performer and composer.

Desplat's musical interests were wide, ranging from early twentieth-century French composers, such as Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy, to jazz and world music. He was also influenced by South American and African artists, among whom were Carlinhos Brown and Ray Lema.[5]

A film fan, Desplat set his sights on becoming a film composer from an early age and worked toward that goal as he started his career. He worked on his first film, Le souffleur, in 1986.[6]

When recording the music for his first film, he met violinist Dominique Lemonnier, who became his favorite soloist, and artistic director. They later married.[5][7]

Desplat has worked on many films since the 1980s, and his big Hollywood break came in 2003 with the soundtrack for the film Girl with a Pearl Earring, a drama set in 17th-century Delft and exploring a fictional muse of Vermeer.[5][8]


Desplat has composed extensively for French cinema, Hollywood, and incidental music for over 100 films, including Lapse of Memory (1992), Family Express (1992), Regarde Les Hommes Tomber (1994), Les Péchés Mortels (1995), César-nominated Un Héros Très Discret (1996), Une Minute de Silence (1998), Sweet Revenge (1998), Le Château des Singes (1999), Reines d'un Jour (2001), the César-nominated Sur mes lèvres (2002), Rire et Châtiment (2003), Syriana (2005), the César-winner The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005), The Queen (2006), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010), The Ghost Writer (2010), Daniel Auteuil's remake of La Fille du Puisatier (2011), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011), and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).

Desplat has composed individual songs that have been sung in films by such artists as Akhenaton, Kate Beckinsale, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Valérie Lemercier, Miosotis, and Catherine Ringer. He has also written music for the theatre, including pieces performed at the Comédie Française. Desplat has conducted performances of his music played by the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Munich Symphony Orchestra. Desplat has also given Master Classes at La Sorbonne in Paris and the Royal College of Music in London.

In 2007, he composed the scores for Philip Pullman's Golden Compass; Zach Helm's directorial debut Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium with American composer Aaron Zigman; and the Ang Lee movie Lust, Caution. Prior to these break-out works, he contributed scores for The Luzhin Defence, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Syriana, Birth, Hostage, Casanova, The Nest.

For The Painted Veil, he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Music, and the 2006 World Soundtrack Award. He won the 2007 BMI Film Music Award, 2007 World Soundtrack Award, 2007 European Film Award, and received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score for The Queen. He also won the Silver Berlin Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for Best Film Music in The Beat that My Heart Skipped. In 2008, Desplat received his second Oscar nomination for David Fincher's Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Desplat received his third Oscar nomination and a BAFTA nomination for Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2010, both of which were won by Michael Giacchino for Up.

Desplat has composed music for Largo Winch, based on the Belgian comic; Afterwards a French-Canadian psychological thriller film directed by Gilles Bourdos in English; Anne Fontaine's Coco avant Chanel, based on the life of designer Coco Chanel; Robert Guédiguian's L'Armée du Crime; Cheri, reuniting him with director Stephen Frears, whom he collaborated with on The Queen; Un Prophète reuniting with director Jacques Audiard; Julie & Julia[9] directed by Nora Ephron; Fantastic Mr. Fox, directed by Wes Anderson and based on the novel by Roald Dahl; New Moon, directed by Chris Weitz; Roman Polanski's Ghost Writer; Tamara Drewe; The Special Relationship; and The King's Speech which earned Desplat his fourth Oscar nomination.[10]

In early 2011, Desplat began to write the music to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. He reunited with director David Yates, who offered Desplat the opportunity to score the second part after his work on the Part 1 soundtrack in 2010 "enchanted everyone in the control room".[11][12] Desplat's soundtrack sequel to the 2008 film Largo Winch was released in 2011 and was well received. Desplat's 2011 projects included The Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malick (which he actually recorded in early 2010), A Better Life,[13] La Fille du Puisatier, Roman Polanski's Carnage, George Clooney's Ides of March, and the logo for the French film company StudioCanal.

Desplat started 2012 with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the Florent Emilio Siri-directed biopic Cloclo, and DreamWorks Animation's Rise of the Guardians. His other scores of 2013 included Rust and Bone, Zero Dark Thirty, and Argo, the latter of which earned him Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations.

In June 2013, Desplat's first Concerto for Flute & Orchestra premiered in France with flautist Jean Ferrandis and the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire conducted by John Axelrod. His Trois Etudes for piano originally written for pianist Lang Lang had its U.S. premiere in October 2013 played by pianist Gloria Cheng. He received a sixth Oscar nomination for his score to Philomena, which marked his fourth collaboration with director Stephen Frears.

On 23 June 2014, it was announced that Desplat would head the jury at the 71st Venice International Film Festival.[14] He wrote five major scores during 2014, with The Grand Budapest Hotel winning him his first Academy Award.[15] His score for The Imitation Game was also nominated, and his win therefore marked the first time a composer had won against another of their own scores since John Williams won for Star Wars (beating Close Encounters of the Third Kind) in 1978, and only the seventh time overall (Alfred Newman, Bernard Herrmann, Max Steiner, Miklos Rozsa and Johnny Green are the only other composers to achieve this).

In 2018, he won his second Academy Award for The Shape of Water and premiered a new work for solo flute played by Emmanuel Pahud.

Filmography (English language)

1998Sweet RevengeMalcolm Mowbray
2000The Luzhin DefenceMarleen Gorris
2001A Hell of a DayMarion Vernoux
2003Girl with a Pearl EarringPeter Webber
2004BirthJonathan Glazer
2005The Upside of AngerMike Binder
HostageFlorent Emilio Siri
CasanovaLasse Hallström
SyrianaStephen Gaghan
2006The AlibiMatt Checkowski
Kurt Mattila
FirewallRichard Loncraine
The QueenStephen Frears
The Painted VeilJohn Curran
2007Mr. Magorium's Wonder EmporiumZach Helmwith Aaron Zigman
The Golden CompassChris Weitz
2008AfterwardsGilles Bourdos
The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonDavid Fincher
2009Julie & JuliaNora Ephron
ChériStephen Frears
Fantastic Mr. FoxWes Anderson
The Twilight Saga: New Moon[16]Chris Weitz
2010The Ghost WriterRoman Polanski
The Special RelationshipRichard Loncraine
Tamara DreweStephen Frears
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1David Yates
The King's SpeechTom Hooper
2011The Tree of LifeTerrence Malick
A Better LifeChris Weitz
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2David Yates
The Ides of MarchGeorge Clooney
CarnageRoman Polanski
My Week with MarilynSimon Curtis"Marilyn's Theme"
Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseStephen Daldry
2012Moonrise KingdomWes Anderson
A TherapyRoman PolanskiShort
RenoirGilles Bourdos
Rust and BoneJacques Audiard
ArgoBen Affleck
Rise of the GuardiansPeter Ramsey
Zero Dark ThirtyKathryn Bigelow
2013ZuluJérôme Salle
Venus in FurRoman Polanski
PhilomenaStephen Frears
2014The Monuments MenGeorge Clooney
The Grand Budapest HotelWes AndersonWon the Academy Award for Best Original Score
Godzilla[17]Gareth Edwards
The Imitation Game[18]Morten Tyldum
UnbrokenAngelina Jolie
2015Tale of TalesMatteo Garrone
Every Thing Will Be FineWim Wenders
The Danish GirlTom Hooper
SuffragetteSarah Gavron
2016Alone in BerlinVincent Pérez
Florence Foster JenkinsStephen Frears
MarseilleTV series
The Secret Life of Pets[19]Chris Renaud
The Light Between OceansDerek Cianfrance
American PastoralEwan McGregor
2017Valerian and the City of a Thousand PlanetsLuc Besson
TrollhuntersTV series; "Hero Theme", "Dark Theme" with Tim Davies
The Shape of WaterGuillermo del ToroWon the Academy Award for Best Original Score
SuburbiconGeorge Clooney
2018Isle of DogsWes Anderson
Operation FinaleChris Weitz
The Sisters BrothersJacques Audiard
KurskThomas Vinterberg
2019The Secret Life of Pets 2[20]Chris Renaud
Little WomenGreta Gerwig
2020The French DispatchWes Anderson

Filmography (other languages)

  • Sous les pieds des femmes (1997) [France (original title)]
  • A Monkey's Tale (1999) [Le Château des singes – France (original title)]
  • Empty Days (1999) [Rien à faire – France (original title)]
  • Une autre femme [France (original title)]
  • Tous les chagrins se ressemblent (2002) [France (original title)]
  • Paroles d'étoiles (2002) [France (original title)]
  • Rire et châtiment [France (original title)]
  • Les baisers des autres (2003) [France (original title)]
  • Le pacte du silence (2003) [France (original title)]
  • Virus au paradis (2003) [France (original title)]
  • Eager Bodies (2003) [Les corps impatients – France (original title)]
  • Les beaux jours (2003) [France (original title)]
  • A Sight for Sore Eyes (2003) [Inquiétudes – France (original title)]
  • Le pays des enfants perdus (2004) [France (original title)]
  • L'enquête Corse (2004) [France (original title)]
  • Tu vas rire, mais je te quitte (2005) [France (original title)]
  • The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005) [De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté – France (original title)]
  • Une aventure (2005)
  • Lies & Alibis (2006) [The Alibi – Netherlands (original title)]
  • The Valet (2006) [La doublure – France (original title)]
  • Quand j'étais chanteur (2006) [France (original title)]
  • L'Ennemi Intime (2007) – France (original title)
  • Lust, Caution (2007) [Se, jie – China/USA/Taiwan (original title)]
  • Michou d'Auber (2007) [France (original title)]
  • Ségo et Sarko sont dans un bateau... (2007) [France (original title)]
  • Largo Winch (2008)
  • Coco Before Chanel (2009) [Coco avant Chanel – France (original title)]
  • A Prophet (2009) [Un prophète – France (original title)]
  • The Army of Crime (2009) [L'armée du crime – France (original title)]
  • La Fille du Puisatier (2011) – France (original title)
  • Largo Winch 2 (2011)
  • Cloclo (2012)
  • Reality (2012)
  • Venus in Fur (2013) [La Vénus à la fourrure – France (original)]
  • Marius (2013)
  • Fanny (2013)
  • Suite Francaise (2015) – Bruno's Piano Piece
  • Don't Tell Me the Boy Was Mad (2015)
  • Les Habitants (2016)
  • The Odyssey (2016)
  • Heal the Living (2016)
  • 12 jours (2017)
  • Based on a True Story (2017) [D'après une histoire vraie – France (original)]
  • An Officer and a Spy (2019)
  • Adults in the Room (2019)


Desplat has received many awards and nominations for his work including two Academy Awards, three BAFTA Awards and two Golden Globe Awards.



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  2. Burlingame, Jon (7 January 2007). "Thinking in Colors and Textures, Then Writing in Music". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  3. "Certains l'aiment chaud Web site". Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  4. Hischak, Thomas S. (16 April 2015). The Encyclopedia of Film Composers (in Arabic). Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4422-4550-1.
  5. "Biography". Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  6. "Biography & Filmography". Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  7. Burlingame, Jon (5 November 2014). "Billion Dollar Composer: Alexandre Desplat Has Ears of World's Top Auteurs". Variety. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  8. "How Alexandre Desplat creates a film score in three weeks – BBC News". BBC News. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  9. "Scoring for the screen: Composers and film directors work in harmony | Film Journal International". Archived from the original on 9 June 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  10. "Interview with Alexandre Desplat :: Film Music Magazine". Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  11. Herrera, Monica; Lipshutz, Jason; Mapes, Jillian (25 January 2011). "Reznor, Rahman, Zimmer & More React to Their Oscar Nominations". Billboard. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  12. Dargis, Manohla (23 June 2011). "'A Better Life,' Directed by Chris Weitz – Review". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  13. "Venice Names Alexandre Desplat To Head Fest Competition Jury". 23 June 2014. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  14. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 January 2016. Retrieved 2015-04-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. Dargis, Manohla (19 November 2009). "For Kristen Stewart, Abstinence Makes the Heart ... You Know". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  16. "Godzilla". Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  17. "Alexandre Desplat Takes Over Scoring Duties on 'The Imitation Game' - Film Music Reporter".
  18. "Alexandre Desplat to Score 'The Secret Life of Pets'". 3 December 2015. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
  19. "Alexandre Desplat to Return for 'The Secret Life of Pets 2' - Film Music Reporter".
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