Friends’ Central alumnus and Ardmore native Benj Pasek ’03, with songwriting partner Justin Paul and composer Justin Hurwitz, won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “City of Stars” in the highly acclaimed film La La Land starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Pasek, Paul, and Hurwitz were also nominated for a second song, “Audition,” in the Best Original Song category. La La Land took home a total of seven Oscars, including Best Actress (Emma Stone), Best Director (Damien Chazelle), and Best Original Music Score.
In his acceptance speech, Pasek thanked his mother, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, who was also his date to the Oscars. “I want to thank my mom, who is amazing and my date tonight … This is for all of the kids who sing in the rain and all of the moms who let them,” said Pasek. Watch Pasek and Paul’s full acceptance speech here. Later that evening on the “thank you cam,” Pasek also said “thank you to my drama teacher Terry Guerin.” Guerin, drama teacher and director at Friends’ Central, was beyond excited for her former student. “Thank YOU, Benj, for the beautiful music. We love you!” Watch the Oscar thank you cam video here.
La La Land has even more ties to Friends' Central, with two additional alumni/ae closely involved in the project. Ty Stiklorius '93 and Mike Jackson '90, who with musician John Legend, are partners with Get Lifted Film Company, were producers on the film. In addition to La La Land, Stiklorius, Jackson, and Legend are currently producing WGN America's successful series Underground, as well as a second season of Pop's original television docu-series Sing It On.
Pasek and Paul are in the midst of a number of exciting high-profile projects. In addition to success with La La Land, including both a Golden Globe and an Oscar nod for the pair, they have an original musical, Dear Evan Hansen, currently running on Broadway to rave reviews. They have also been tapped to write the music for an upcoming film with Hugh Jackman called The Greatest Showman, which tells the story of P.T. Barnum, founder of the circus that became Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Congratulations, Benj, Ty, and Mike!
Pasek (right), songwriting partner Justin Paul (center), and composer Justin Hurwitz (left) accept the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Photo courtesy of eonline.com.