Since first gracing the category with a pair of Oscar nominations in 1994 (for Little Women and The Shawshank Redemption), composer Thomas Newman has been among the most familiar faces in Best Original Score.
In total, Newman has earned 14 Oscar nominations, with four of these appearances coming in just the past seven years. For all of this recognition, however, one feat remains elusive – actually emerging triumphant on the big night.
Despite no shortage of other awards, including six Grammys, two BAFTA Awards and an Emmy, Newman has never prevailed at the Oscars, not even for a Best Picture winner like American Beauty.
This year, however, Newman is perhaps better-positioned than ever to finally prevail with another Sam Mendes-directed Best Picture contender, 1917. He will face formidable competition in the legendary likes of Randy Newman (Marriage Story) and John Williams (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker), among others, but, given both increasing sentiment that he’s long overdue for a win (Williams and the other Newman already have multiple Oscars) and the critical raves he’s earned for his 1917 work, Newman enters the race as a front-runner.
One potential hurdle that does await Newman’s Oscar bid here – war cinema’s lackluster Best Original Score track record in recent years. The likes of Dunkirk, The Hurt Locker, Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line, all Best Picture contenders, earned Original Score nominations but came up short on Oscar night. The war pictures that have triumphed, like Atonement and The English Patient, are often romances – something 1917 decidedly is not.
Should Newman be nominated and again lose, he will tie the late composer Alex North for the record of most Best Original Score Oscar noms without a win. North would eventually, at age 75, earn an honorary Oscar for his body of work – a lovely career prize for sure but there is no doubt Newman has his eye on a competitive statue first.
Andrew Carden is a contributing writer at Gold Derby and writes about all things Oscar on his blog, The Awards Connection. When he’s not on Twitter, lamenting Thelma Ritter’s 0-for-6 record in Best Supporting Actress, Andrew works in Massachusetts politics.