Diane Warren has written over 100 songs for films since 1985 — and wasn’t going to let the pandemic slow her down. This year, she has three songs in contention for Academy Award nominations: “Io Sì (Seen),” performed in Italian by Laura Pausini for The Life Ahead, starring Sophia Loren; “Free,” performed by Charlie Puth for The One and Only Ivan; and “I’ll Get There (The Other Side)” performed by Emeli Sandé for Emperor. Warren, 64, has been nominated for best original song 11 times without a win — so far.
Do you have a favorite of your contenders this year?
The One and Only Ivan is such a beautiful movie about animals and animals’ right to be free. Animal rights are my passion — besides music — so that meant a lot to me. And the Sophia Loren movie is beautiful as well. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a song in another language in a movie. People are really responding to it. They say, “The song made me cry, and I don’t even know what it’s saying.”
You have two co-writers on that song — Pausini and Niccolò Agliardi. How did you collaborate?
I composed it and wrote an English lyric, and they wrote their own lyric to it inspired by my lyric. It’s the same basic concept. I love the way it sounds in Italian. At first, I wanted them to do an English version [in the film] when they dubbed it, but they kept it in Italian. I think there’s something kind of great about the fact that they did that because it’s more true to the story.
You have a very strong work ethic. What drives you?
Money never drove me. I literally have to do this. I have to create, come up with songs. Just for my survival. It’s like breathing to me. I hate myself if I don’t write. I’m the same way as I was when I was 14 and obsessed with writing songs.
Every year on the eve of the nominations announcement, you host a slumber party for friends. What are your plans this year?
I call them “sleepless sleepovers.” We stay up all night. We have some wine and watch movies, and when it gets to be time for the nominations, we all gather around the TV. I guess this year it will have to be a Zoom sleepless sleepover, which will be really weird.