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Black Panther Composer Ludwig Göransson On His 'Surreal' Oscar Nom And Virgo Work Ethic

The 34-year-old reflects on his Oscar nomination and looks ahead: 'The goal is just to never stop learning'

Ludwig Göransson's morning was relatively chill for a first-time Oscar nominee. He woke up at the somewhat reasonable hour of 5:15 a.m. to watch Kumail Nanjiani and Tracee Ellis Ross announce the first wave of Academy Award nominations from the comfort of his own bed, streaming it on his wife's phone. When his name was read as one of the nominees for Best Original Score, the Black Panther composer understandably freaked out. But a few phone calls later — one from his director and good friend Ryan Coogler, another to his parents in Sweden — and he and his wife were casually grabbing breakfast at his favorite Los Angeles spot.

When MTV News caught up with Göransson post-eggs and avocado on January 22, he was still having trouble processing his good fortune. After all, just 11 years ago, he and Coogler were working on student film projects together at USC; now, they were making history. Instead, the 34-year-old composer and producer would rather focus on the task ahead. After his morning media blitz, Göransson said he was headed to the studio to work on the top-secret Star Wars television project, The Mandalorian. So maybe the only thing chill about his morning was his attitude.

Here's what Göransson had to say about his Oscar nomination, sharing this moment with Coogler, his Virgo work ethic, and what he plans to wear to Hollywood's biggest night.

MTV News: What was the first thing that popped into your head when you heard your name?

Ludwig Göransson: I mean, it's crazy. I'm still kind of pinching myself. It's just nuts. I could not believe it.

MTV News: So now that you've had a few hours to process, how are you feeling?

Göransson: I'm so grateful and really honored to be nominated for this film. I don't know, this feels crazy.

MTV News: It's such a cool nomination not only for you, but for the film. Black Panther got seven nominations. It is the first superhero film to be nominated for best picture. How does it feel to be part of history like that?

Göransson: Well, first of all, the best part of being nominated is just that it's for this particular project. It's for a project with a director who's, like, my best friend. And with other people that have also worked on the film that I've been working with, not just Ryan, but other people I've been working with for my whole career. I've worked with Ryan since we were students at USC, and we did a five-minute short film. And now 11 years later, we worked on Black Panther which so many people around the globe saw. And people are still talking about it. To be involved with something like that with your friends, and then you get awards and nominations, it's just such an amazing thing to share that with people you love.

MTV News: Have you talked to Ryan yet?

Göransson: I talked to him this morning. He called me and congratulated me. It was very sweet.

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Coogler and Göransson at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013

MTV News: You've been friends with Ryan for a decade, as well as Donald Glover. You and Donald were recently nominated for another Grammy this year for "This Is America." What is it like to experience these crazy, monumental moments with your close friends all at the same time?

Göransson: It's weird to experience it with Donald and with Ryan at the same time. We're in the same zone together, the same universe. It's the energy right now. Everything at the right place, at the right time, and it feels surreal.

MTV News: I'm sure part of it is just serendipity that it's all happening right now, but it still must feel incredible.

Göransson: Yeah, but we're not doing anything different from when we did our first movie or when me and Donald did our first album. We're still working with the same passion, the same energy, and the same love for what we do and now everyone around us is recognizing that.

MTV News: I don't know what kind of person you are and how you internalize these kinds of things, but, for example, I'm a Virgo, so I can't relish in anything because I'm always thinking about the next project. Are you like that at all? Are you enjoying this moment, or is your mind already on the next big project?

Göransson: I'm also a Virgo! I do this because I love working, I love creating, and I'm lucky enough to be working and to have people that want to hire me. And so, I had an incredible breakfast with my wife, and I'm going to go to the studio and work on The Mandalorian.

MTV News: Today?

Göransson: Yeah.

MTV News: That's the dream.

Göransson: It is a dream, and it's a great way of celebrating.

MTV News: What would you have for breakfast?

Göransson: We went to this place in Los Angeles on Hillhurst [Avenue] called All Time. And I ate something called "BOAT," which stands for Breakfast of All Time. It was beans, fried plantains, avocado, and eggs.

MTV News: Is that your favorite spot?

Göransson: It is my favorite spot.

MTV News: Have you talked to your parents in Sweden?

Göransson: My wife called my parents and I talked to them for five minutes, because it's 5:30 [a.m.] in LA, but it's 3:30 p.m. in Sweden. So, they were already up and super excited. I'm from a smaller town in Sweden, so the local newspaper was writing about it.

MTV News: So that means you're going to get some kind of plaque dedicated to you in your hometown.

Göransson: Maybe if I work hard enough. [Laughs] Maybe I'll get a little figurine or a statue or something.

MTV News: What's the 2019 goal?

Göransson: The 2019 goal is just to never stop learning. That's important for me, to never just relax and be too comfortable with what you have. I need to study more. I need to educate myself more — and not just in music, in everything — but especially in music and composing.

MTV News: That was a huge part of your success with the Black Panther score. You spent a lot of time learning and listening and traveling to Africa to engage with the process holistically.

Göransson: Absolutely. I was able to learn a new language — a new musical language is learning a new language, because it's so extremely different from Western classical music. African music is completely different. Old music is there for a reason; it's all connected. The music is written for a ceremony or a wedding or a funeral or a special type of dance, and it's about understanding what that music means to people. With the score for the movie, I wanted to have as much of this music and work with as many African musicians that I could and introduce this culture and this music to the world — having instruments they've never heard before be the lead instrument.

Every time you see T'Challa, the talking drum comes back into the movie. That was the goal: to have African music be the forefront of the score. The most difficult part of the process was to find ways to combine it with an orchestra to give it that cinematic, superhero power that you need with the score. I also wanted to add some modern hip-hop production. So, it was really about blending these three styles together.

MTV News: You've been working with Ryan for the last decade, and I know that a lot of the department heads of this film had worked with him previously, like Hannah Beachler, who made history today as the first African-American to ever be nominated for production design.

Göransson: It's incredible.

MTV News: So what's it like being part of the Ryan Coogler family?

Göransson: It's the best family I could have. I mean, having someone like Ryan as your leader of the pack... there's no better feeling than that. You know you always have him in your corner. Anytime you're stuck, whenever you're stuck, you just call him or you talk to him and anything that he says will unlock new ways for you to see things — just listening to him describing a scene in a different way, or a character. And even though he doesn't play an instrument, the way he talks about music is like he's a composer. He's someone you would do anything for.

MTV News: This last question is a very important question. I saw you rocked green velvet at the Grammys last year. Have you even thought about what you're going to wear to the Oscars?

Göransson: Just from my thought process this morning... I think it's a more conservative look. So I probably have to save my pink velvet suit for the Grammys this year and then go for a more traditional purple velvet for the Oscars.