The ‘bridesmaid of ballads’ is the most nominated woman in Academy history never to have won. This year, she really wants that trophy
With 10 best original song nods across five decades, and another currently in the balance, songwriter Diane Warren can lay claim to the slightly infuriating honour of being the most nominated woman in Oscars history to have never won. This Sunday, that could all change. Well, Warren hopes so at least. “I’ve sat there a lot of times; I’m not complaining, I’m really grateful,” she says diplomatically. “But it would be awesome to win!”
Warren is known for penning power ballad-style hits for blockbuster movies, from LeAnn Rimes’s How Do I Live (Trisha Yearwood’s version of which was on the Con Air OST) to Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing (Armageddon). But this year’s nominated song is a little different. Sure, it has got the soaring chorus and empowering message, but I’m Standing With You, performed by Chrissy Metz, marks itself out from the pack due to its status as the sole nomination for Breakthrough, a relatively small-fry Christian drama about a boy who falls into an icy lake and is saved by the power of prayer. The film itself received middling reviews, but Warren’s characteristically punchy anthem has transcended the stodgy screenplay to be rewarded with a place alongside fellow nominees Randy Newman (I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away from Toy Story 4) and Elton John ((I’m Gonna) Love Me Again from Rocketman).
But if victory evades her once again, who would Warren like to see take home the prize? “I want to see me win!” she hoots. Despite her losses – her first came in 1987 after Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now from Mannequin was beaten by Dirty Dancing’s (I’ve Had) the Time of My Life – Warren almost always has a speech prepared, just in case. “The speech that I end up putting in my pocket,” she laughs. “I do it every year except when I was up against My Heart Will Go On, it was like: ‘OK, don’t bother.’ And last year, when I was up against [Lady Gaga’s] Shallow.” It is an odd category for sure, pulling in some unlikely nominations – LA’s bard of pain Elliott Smith in 1997, anyone? – but also leaving out big hitters (this year, Beyoncé was snubbed, despite being nominated for the same award at the Golden Globes for her contribution to The Lion King).
The Academy evidently has something of a soft spot for Warren, and considering the fact that none of this year’s other nominated songs have really entered the public consciousness, I’m Standing With You looks like Warren’s surest ever chance of a win. Plus, she has numerology on her side, with all the key numbers surrounding the event adding up to 11, her total number of nominations. “It’s the 92nd Oscars,” she explains. “Nine and two is 11. It’s on February 9, that’s two and nine, and that adds up to 11. So I’m hoping. I’m putting it out there.”