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French composer Alexandre Desplat is the son of a Greek mother and a French father who met in the U.S. while both were attending the University of California at Berkeley, married in San Francisco, and settled in France. He began studying the piano at age five, later switching to trumpet and then flute. Fascinated by both music and film, he decided to pursue a career as a composer of movie scores.
Beginning with Ki Lo Sa? in 1985, his scores for television and film totaled 100 by 2007. In these works, he developed a contemplative style that did not attempt to respond beat by beat to the action onscreen, but rather set its own complementary mood. He began to attract attention in the U.S. with The Luzhin Defence in 2000, which had a soundtrack album released in America by Silva Screen Records. His music for Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003) earned a Golden Globe nomination, and with that recognition, he began to work increasingly on English-language films distributed by the Hollywood studios, including but not limited to Birth (2004), The Upside of Anger (2005), Syriana (2005), and The Painted Veil (2006) (a Golden Globe Award winner), several of which produced soundtrack albums.
The Queen (2006) earned him his first Academy Award nomination. He received his second Oscar nomination in 2008 for his work on David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and his third in 2010 for Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox. More high-profile film scores followed, including both installments of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Argo, Philomena, and, in 2014, both The Imitation Game and The Grand Budapest Hotel, the latter of which became his first Academy Award win. Subsequent score highlights included 2015's The Danish Girl and, in 2016, the animated feature The Secret Life of Pets and American Pastoral, an adaptation of the Philip Roth novel.