With 'Joker,' composer Hildur Guðnadóttir could make history

This is no laughing matter: “Joker” composer Hildur Guðnadóttir could be the first woman in 19 years to win the Golden Globe for best original score

NEW YORK -- This is no laughing matter: “Joker” composer Hildur Guðnadóttir could be the first woman in 19 years to win the Golden Globe for best original score.

Guðnadóttir earned the nomination Monday and is the sole female nominee in the category. And she could become just the second woman to win the prize — Lisa Gerrard made history in 2001 when she won best original score for “Gladiator,” which she shared with Hans Zimmer.

“It feels really wonderful,” Guðnadóttir said in a phone interview from Berlin. “I think one of the best ways to empower young women and girls to see (composing) as an option, to even get into this line of work is for more women to be more visible in the industry. And it’s just a huge honor to be a part of that visibility and hopefully send a message to both the industry and most importantly, the girls that are starting out, that’s it’s an actually possibility. They can also do this line of work.”

The classically trained cellist from Iceland has had an exceptional year: She won an Emmy in September for scoring the HBO series “Chernobyl,” and her work on the show also earned her a Grammy nomination for best score soundtrack for visual media (the 2020 Grammys are on Jan. 26).

The 37-year-old Guðnadóttir’s score for “Joker” won at last month’s Hollywood Music in Media Awards and is a nominee at the Critics’ Choice Movies Awards.

“I was so fascinated with the script because it was focusing so much on the personal journey that this character is going through, and I thought it was such an interesting take on a character that we’ve been living with for so long,” she said. “I started writing music before they started shooting and they were able to use some parts of the music as they were shooting, so that was a really wonderful process for me as a composer.”

“Joker” scored four Globe nominations, including best motion picture — drama, best actor in a drama for Joaquin Phoenix and best director for Todd Phillips.

Guðnadóttir said she was recommended to Phillips for the job by “Joker” executive music producer Jason Ruder.

“I know that (Jason) knew about my work and he worked with Todd for 10 years I think, and he approached him and said, ‘I know you want music to come in very early and this is the person that you want to hire for the job,’” Guðnadóttir recalled. “That was really, really wonderful. And a film I just scored, “Sicario 2,” was just in the cinema at the time and Todd went to the cinema to see the film and he said, ‘Yes, this is the person I need.’”

At the Globes, Guðnadóttir will compete with Alexandre Desplat (“Little Women”), Thomas Newman (“1917″), Daniel Pemberton (“Motherless Brooklyn”) and Randy Newman, who scored the seventh Globe nomination of his career with “Marriage Story.”

“I am pretty blown away,” Guðnadóttir said, adding with a laugh that she learned of the nomination while writing a piece for an art installation for a cello-playing robot. “Such an incredible last few weeks. It has exploded. I’m in a bit of shock.”

She’s the first woman to be nominated for best original score in 10 years, when Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was nominated for “Where the Wild Things Are” (shared with Carter Burwell) at the 2010 Globes. In the year Gerrard won, more women were nominated, including Rachel Portman (“Chocolat") and Kristin Wilkinson (“All the Pretty Horses").

“There’s been a lot of awareness about the lack of the presence of women in the industry ... and as a result of all this awareness that’s happening, it’s wonderful to be a part of that visibility for younger women,” she said.