It was the second Academy Award for the French composer. He previously won for 2014’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” He also won Golden Globe and BAFTA honors for his “Shape of Water” score.
This marks the second occasion on which he has beaten the statistical odds: It’s only the fifth time in the past 25 years that Oscar has rewarded a previous winner; voters generally prefer to give the gold to first-timers.
In 2014, he was competing against himself, having also been nominated for “The Imitation Game.” That hadn’t happened since 1977, when John Williams won for “Star Wars” but was also nominated for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
The Desplat score may have triumphed because it gave voice to the film’s two mute characters (the cleaning woman, whose theme was whistled by Desplat himself, and the amphibious creature with whom she falls in love, voiced by an accordion playing in South American bandoneon style, suggesting the creature’s geographical home).
“The Shape of Water” was Desplat’s second project for Guillermo del Toro. He composed the theme for del Toro’s “Trollhunters” TV series in 2016. Desplat’s next score is for his “Grand Budapest Hotel” director Wes Anderson: the animated “Isle of Dogs.”
Desplat won over first-time nominee Jonny Greenwood for “Phantom Thread,” and the previously nominated Carter Burwell for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” The two previous winners in the field were Hans Zimmer for “Dunkirk” and John Williams for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”