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Alexandre Desplat
Desplat in 2015
Background information
Birth name Alexandre Michel Gérard Desplat
Born (1961-08-23) 23 August 1961 (age 62)
Paris, France
Genres Film score, contemporary classical, jazz
Occupation(s) Composer, orchestrator, conductor
Instruments Piano, trumpet, flute

Alexandre Michel Gérard Desplat (French: [alɛksɑ̃dʁ dɛspla]; born 23 August 1961) is a French film composer and conductor. He has received numerous accolades throughout his career spanning over four decades, including, two Academy Awards, three British Academy Film Awards, three César Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and two Grammy Awards. Desplat was made an Officer of the Ordre national du Mérite and a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres both in 2016.

Desplat has received two Academy Awards for Best Original Score for The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) and The Shape of Water (2017). He also received nominations for his work on The Queen (2006), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), The King's Speech (2010), Argo (2012), Philomena (2013), The Imitation Game (2014), Isle of Dogs (2018), and Little Women (2019).

Desplat has composed scores for a wide range of films, including low-budget independent productions and large-scale blockbusters, such as The Golden Compass (2007), Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (2008), The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010), & Part 2 (2011), Moonrise Kingdom (2012), Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Godzilla (2014), Unbroken (2014), The Secret Life of Pets (2016), The Midnight Sky (2020), The French Dispatch (2021), and Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio (2022).

Early life

Alexandre Desplat was born in Paris. His father, Jacques Desplat, was a Frenchman originally from Sarlat-la-Canéda. His mother, Katie Ladopoulou, is a Greek poet originally from Athens. Desplat's parents had met in the United States while they were both students at the University of California, Berkeley. They married in San Francisco and returned to France, settling in Paris. Alexandre has two older sisters, Marie-Christine (also known as Kiki) and Rosalinda.

Desplat began playing the piano at the age of five. He later picked up the trumpet, before switching to flute at nine. Desplat's musical interests were wide, ranging from French composers as Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy, to jazz and world music. He developed an early appreciation for film music, courtesy of the movie soundtracks his parents brought back from the United States. He began collecting Bernard Herrmann's Hitchcock soundtracks as a teen and eventually decided to pursue a career as a film composer after hearing John Williams's Star Wars score in 1977. Other early sources of Desplat's inspiration include the music of Maurice Jarre, Nino Rota and Georges Delerue.

Desplat studied at the Conservatoire de Paris under Claude Ballif. During this period, he also took a summer course under Iannis Xenakis. Desplat also studied under Jack Hayes in Los Angeles. After leaving the Conservatoire, the then 20-year-old Desplat joined a theatrical troupe, where he wrote and played music.

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

Desplat has worked on many films since the 1990s. 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 exploring a fictional muse of Vermeer.


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 and Zach Helm's BAFTA nominated directorial debut Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium with American composer Aaron Zigman. Prior to these break-out works, he contributed scores for The Luzhin Defence, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Syriana, Birth, Hostage, Casanova and 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 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.

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". 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, 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. He wrote five major scores during 2014, with The Grand Budapest Hotel winning him his first Academy Award. 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).

On 16 March 2015, It was announced that Desplat would be composing the first anthology film of the new Disney Star Wars films, called Rogue One. In September 2016, he stepped down due to reshoots of the film, and was then replaced by Michael Giacchino.

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.

2022 saw Desplat nominated for Best Original Score for The French Dispatch at the BAFTA Awards.




Year Film Director Notes
1998 Sweet Revenge Malcolm Mowbray
2000 The Luzhin Defence Marleen Gorris
2001 A Hell of a Day Marion Vernoux
2003 Girl with a Pearl Earring Peter Webber
2004 Birth Jonathan Glazer
2005 The Upside of Anger Mike Binder
Hostage Florent Emilio Siri
Casanova Lasse Hallström
Syriana Stephen Gaghan
2006 The Alibi Matt Checkowski
Kurt Mattila
Firewall Richard Loncraine
The Queen Stephen Frears
The Painted Veil John Curran
2007 Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium Zach Helm with Aaron Zigman
The Golden Compass Chris Weitz
2008 Afterwards Gilles Bourdos
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button David Fincher
2009 Julie & Julia Nora Ephron
Chéri Stephen Frears
Fantastic Mr. Fox Wes Anderson Desplat's first score for an animated film
The Twilight Saga: New Moon Chris Weitz
2010 The Ghost Writer Roman Polanski
The Special Relationship Richard Loncraine
Tamara Drewe Stephen Frears
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 David Yates Theme by John Williams
The King's Speech Tom Hooper
2011 The Tree of Life Terrence Malick
A Better Life Chris Weitz
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 David Yates Theme by John Williams
The Ides of March George Clooney
Carnage Roman Polanski (2)
My Week with Marilyn Simon Curtis "Marilyn's Theme"
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Stephen Daldry
2012 Moonrise Kingdom Wes Anderson (2)
A Therapy Roman Polanski Short
Argo Ben Affleck
Rise of the Guardians Peter Ramsey
Zero Dark Thirty Kathryn Bigelow
2013 Zulu Jérôme Salle
Venus in Fur Roman Polanski (3)
Philomena Stephen Frears
2014 The Monuments Men George Clooney
The Grand Budapest Hotel Wes Anderson (3)
Godzilla Gareth Edwards
The Imitation Game Morten Tyldum
Unbroken Angelina Jolie
2015 Tale of Tales Matteo Garrone
Every Thing Will Be Fine Wim Wenders
The Danish Girl Tom Hooper
Suffragette Sarah Gavron
2016 Alone in Berlin Vincent Pérez
Florence Foster Jenkins Stephen Frears
The Secret Life of Pets Chris Renaud
The Light Between Oceans Derek Cianfrance
American Pastoral Ewan McGregor
2017 Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Luc Besson
The Shape of Water Guillermo del Toro
Suburbicon George Clooney
Based on a True Story Roman Polanski (4)
2018 Isle of Dogs Wes Anderson (4)
Operation Finale Chris Weitz
The Sisters Brothers Jacques Audiard
Kursk Thomas Vinterberg
2019 The Secret Life of Pets 2 Chris Renaud
Little Women Greta Gerwig
An Officer and a Spy Roman Polanski (5)
2020 The Midnight Sky George Clooney
2021 The French Dispatch Wes Anderson (5)
2022 The Outfit Graham Moore
The Lost King Stephen Frears
Pinocchio Guillermo del Toro Score and songs
2023 Asteroid City Wes Anderson (6) Composed six songs
The Palace Roman Polanski (6)
  • Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
  • Jimmy Chin


Year Film Director Notes
2016 Marseille TV series
2016 Trollhunters TV series; "Hero Theme", "Dark Theme" with Tim Davies

Other languages

  • Sous les pieds des femmes (1997) [France (original title)]
  • La femme du cosmonaute (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)]
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • Renoir (2012)
  • Rust and Bone (2012) [De rouille et d'os – France (original title)]
  • Venus in Fur (2013) [La Vénus à la fourrure – France (original title)]
  • 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 title)]
  • An Officer and a Spy (2019)
  • Adults in the Room (2019)
  • Eiffel (2021)
  • Lui (2022)
  • Father & Soldier (2022) [Tirailleurs – France/Senegal (original title)]


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


See also

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