Diane Warren Explains Her Trilogy of Inspirational Movie Songs, From ‘The Hunting Ground’ to ‘RBG’

OscarWrap Songs Special: “I still have my fun songs — but when I can do songs that can have power and motivate someone, I want to do it,” says the nine-time Oscar nominee

Diane Warren
Photo: Rochelle Bodin

Diane Warren is participating in TheWrap’s third annual songwriting panel on Monday night at the Dolby Screening Room Hollywood Vine. A version of this story first appeared in the Race Begins issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.

With nine nominations over the last 30 years, Diane Warren is second only to Marilyn Bergman in Oscar song nominations for a female songwriter. “I’ll Fight,” her song from the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary “RBG,” marks the third year that she’s been in the race with an anthemic song of inspiration, after “Til It Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground” and “Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall.”

Over the last three years, you’ve had a string of inspirational songs from movies. Are you consciously changing what you want to do with your songwriting?
I think it’s kind of happening organically, and I do still have my fun songs. But when I can do songs that can have power and motivate someone, I want to do it. I feel like my writing is getting deeper, and I really do want my songs to make a difference. I’m proud of other songs I’ve written for movies, but the last couple of them, and hopefully this one too, have something to say.

And I do look at this one as part three in a trilogy. These songs are reflecting the times, or maybe even helping move things. “Til It Happens to You,” people weren’t talking about sexual assault as much until that came out. And then the song from Marshall was the next step — it says stand up for something, for yourself. And now you have the next step, which is to be more active, more activist: I’ll fight for myself, and for you. As times are getting scarier, these songs are reflecting these times when we cant be complacent, we have to fight.

What were the keys when you were writing the song?
I always try to make a song for the movie, but I also want it to live outside the movie. In the movie, it represents what Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been doing for 40 years, but you can take that song and make it whatever you want it to be. You can think about those poor kids at the border, and the song could be for them. It could be for somebody going through depression.

But at its heart it’s about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which must have been one of the reasons you wanted to do it.
When Bonnie Greenberg, who’s a music supervisor, told me about the movie, I was like, “Oh, f—, yeah. If I could write a song that could be Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s theme song, count me in.” She is such a rock star. And I also feel a connection because before I was born, my dad changed his name because of anti-Semitism. And he took the name Warren from Earl Warren, who was a chief justice on the Supreme Court.

To read more of TheWrap’s Race Begins issue, click here.

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