Burwell long been the Coen Brothers' composer of choice

By Alex Heigl
Updated February 27, 2016 09:10 AM
Credit: Jeff Vespa/Getty

Carter Burwell is up for his first Academy Award this year, for Carol. Should the composer pick up an Oscar – and he’s up against some stiff competition, from legends like Ennio Morricone and John Williams – it’ll be his first in a 25-year-career. Here’s a look back at some of the highlights:

Burwell’s longest collaboration has been with the Coen Brothers, for whom he’s scored 15 films.

After working on Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing and Barton Fink for the pair, Burwell did some more mainstream fare, including work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the 1995 historical epic Rob Roy, which showed his willingness to play around with lush orchestral sounds and in particular, the folk stylings of a particular region, with different arrangements of traditional Scottish ballads.

It was a theme he’d return to with 1996’s Fargo, the film that heralded Burwell’s long association with the Coen Brothers. That movie’s main theme was based on a Scandinavian folk song, drawing on the original roots of many of the film’s Dakota residents.

Burwell continued working with the Coens, but also scored films like Three Kings, The Blind Side, two films in the Twilight franchise and Where the Wild Things Are, for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe, along with Karen O.

In 2011, Burwell picked up a Primetime Emmy for his score of Mildred Pierce.

Watch Burwell discuss how he composed the score for Carol in this short clip from The Weinstein Company.

True to form, Burwell also worked on the Coen Brothers’ most recent film, Hail, Caesar! and collaborated again with Charlie Kaufman (with whom he worked on 2002’s Adaptation) on the animated feature Anomalisa, itself nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2016 Academy Awards.