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James Horner

James Horner

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Also Known As: James Roy Horner Died:
Born: August 14, 1953 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Los Angeles, California, USA Profession: composer, conductor, teacher

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Having written the music for major Hollywood films over the course of several decades, composer James Horner amassed an impressive resume that included repeated collaborations with directors Mel Gibson, Ron Howard and James Cameron. In fact, it was with the latter that Horner composed his finest work, the sweeping score for "Titanic" (1997), which netted him two Academy Awards and associated him with the most successful movie of all time. Prior to that, he had made a name for himself composing such popular films as "48 Hrs." (1982), "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982) and "Cocoon" (1985). Horner received his first serious acclaim working with Cameron on "Aliens" (1986), though the two failed to reach a harmonious working relationship that delayed any further collaborations for over a decade. Meanwhile, he went on to score "Field of Dreams" (1989), "Glory" (1989), "Apollo 13" (1995), "Braveheart" (1995) and "A Beautiful Mind" (2001), all of which earned him award recognition at the Golden Globes, Grammys and Academy Awards. Though often accused by critics for recycling hooks and motifs from his previous films, Horner remained one of the preeminent composers working in Hollywood, a fact made...

Having written the music for major Hollywood films over the course of several decades, composer James Horner amassed an impressive resume that included repeated collaborations with directors Mel Gibson, Ron Howard and James Cameron. In fact, it was with the latter that Horner composed his finest work, the sweeping score for "Titanic" (1997), which netted him two Academy Awards and associated him with the most successful movie of all time. Prior to that, he had made a name for himself composing such popular films as "48 Hrs." (1982), "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982) and "Cocoon" (1985). Horner received his first serious acclaim working with Cameron on "Aliens" (1986), though the two failed to reach a harmonious working relationship that delayed any further collaborations for over a decade. Meanwhile, he went on to score "Field of Dreams" (1989), "Glory" (1989), "Apollo 13" (1995), "Braveheart" (1995) and "A Beautiful Mind" (2001), all of which earned him award recognition at the Golden Globes, Grammys and Academy Awards. Though often accused by critics for recycling hooks and motifs from his previous films, Horner remained one of the preeminent composers working in Hollywood, a fact made clearer when his score for Cameron's stunning "Avatar" (2009) earned him further recognition and acclaim.

Born on Aug. 14, 1953 in Los Angeles, CA, Horner was raised by his mother, Joan, and his father, Harry, a successful art director and production designer from Austria who had enjoyed an Oscar-winning career in Hollywood for his work on "The Heiress" (1949) and "The Hustler" (1961). After first delving into the piano at five years old, Horner moved to England with his family, where he eventually studied under György Ligeti at the Royal College of Music. Back in the United States, he earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Southern California, which he followed by receiving his master's in music theory and composition from the University of California at Los Angeles. Horner stuck around the Westwood campus to pursue his doctorate in the same field while teaching music theory at the university. In 1978, he premiered his avant-garde composition, "Spectral Shimmers," to mixed critical reviews. Following a brief stint composing scores for student films made at the American Film Institute, Horner was tapped by low-ball indie guru Roger Corman to write the scores for "The Lady in Red" (1979) and "Battle Beyond the Stars" (1980).

Thanks to his entrée into the film world via Corman, Horner soon ventured out into more mainstream Hollywood fare, including an early Oliver Stone thriller called "The Hand" (1981). He won his first critical success, however, with his jazz fusion score for Walter Hill's "48 Hrs." (1982). His stock rose following his scoring for another box office hit, "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982), which put the previously unknown composer in Hollywood demand. The following year, Horner began composing scores for a string of major studio films that included "Krull" (1983), "Gorky Park" (1983), "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" (1984), "Commando" (1984), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Ron Howard's touching "Cocoon" (1985). Horner catapulted into the upper tier of film composers with his frenetic score for James Cameron's "Aliens" (1986), which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score. But recognition was not without its price. Horner reportedly clashed with Cameron behind the scenes during post-production over the composer's need for more time to write the music. Since Cameron was editing while Horner was supposed to be composing, he was unable to see a cut until late in the process, which forced him to record the music.

That same year, Horner earned a second Academy Award nomination, this time for Best Original Song for "Somewhere Out There" from the animated feature "An American Tail" (1986), which also earned him Grammy awards for Song of the Year and Best Song in a Motion Picture, while the song became a commercial hit thanks to a duet by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram. Following a reunion with Ron Howard on "Willow" (1988), the composer earned another Best Original Score nod at the Academy Awards for his music in "Field of Dreams" (1989). Also that year, he received a Golden Globe nomination for his heart-wrenching score for the Civil War drama, "Glory" (1989), and went on to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television. Moving into the 1990s, Horner continued to write strong, critically acclaimed music for the big screen. Following what some considered to be a superior effort for the animated sequel, "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West" (1991), he wrote the piano-heavy score for the understated chess drama, "Searching for Bobby Fischer" (1993), and the synthesizer-based music for "Bopha!" (1993); both of which ranked among his finer work.

Following his first collaboration with actor-director Mel Gibson on "The Man Without a Face" (1993), Horner received a fair amount of critical attention for the lush and melodic score for "Legends of the Fall" (1994), which interwove themes written to represent each of the major characters. Horner was a double Oscar nominee the following year for his Celtic-influenced music in Gibson's "Braveheart" and for the stark, but ultimately triumphant score on "Apollo 13," his third collaboration with director Ron Howard. Two years later, he bucked up and dove back into working with the tempestuous James Cameron for what later stood as the composer's most accomplished and successful achievement, the powerful Oscar-winning score to the blockbuster "Titanic" (1997). From a subdued beginning that underscored a burgeoning affair between two star-crossed lovers (Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio) through the heavy use of brass and drums to indicate the sinking of the unsinkable ship, the score proved to be the composer's masterwork. As he did with "Braveheart," Horner employed Celtic instruments, as well as the haunting vocalizations of Norwegian singer Sissel, to create the ethereal underscore for the romantic scenes. The film's Oscar-winning love theme, "My Heart Will Go On," with lyrics from regular writing partner Will Jennings and a performance by Celine Dion, was a chart-topping hit which played ad nauseam on radio for over a year.

After "Titanic," Horner settled into a consistent groove, penning scores for several major Hollywood films every year, including "The Mask of Zorro" (1998), "Mighty Joe Young" (1998), "Bicentennial Man" (1999) and "The Perfect Storm" (2000). He found himself in Oscar contention once again for his affecting score to "A Beautiful Mind" (2001), Ron Howard's semi-fictional biography of the schizophrenia-inflicted math genius, John Forbes Nash (Russell Crowe). After penning the dramatic underscore to "Enemy at the Gates" (2001), an elegiac look at the Siege of Stalingrad, he received another Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score for his work on the drama, "House of Sand and Fog" (2003). His music added to the triumphant battles of "Troy" (2004) while underscoring new discoveries in Terrence Malick's "New World" (2005). In 2006, he wrote the theme to the "CBS Evening News" for anchor Katie Couric's turn at the desk following Dan Rather's departure. Back in the film world, he teamed up again with Mel Gibson for "Apocalypto" (2006), scored Steve Zaillian's misfired adaptation of Robert Penn Warren's "All the King's Men" (2006), and wrote and performed piano for the unsettling Holocaust drama, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" (2008). Joining forces with Cameron for the director's first film since "Titanic" over a decade prior, Horner wrote a sweeping score to the innovative 3-D opus, "Avatar" (2009), which emerged from rampant pre-release criticism to become a box office hit and legitimate Oscar contender. That path was further paved when Horner received nominations for Best Original Score at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Freedom Song (2000)
2.
 Jack the Bear (1993)
3.
 Bopha! (1993)
4.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Taught music theory at UCLA while working on his PhD
1978:
Recorded "Spectral Shimmers" with the Indianpolis Symphony Orchestra
1978:
Composed several student projects at the American Film Institute
1978:
Hired by Roger Corman's New World Pictures to write film scores
1979:
Composed first film score, "The Lady in Red"
1980:
Composed for B movie director Roger Corman's big-budget, "Battle Beyond the Stars"
1981:
Provided the score for Oliver Stone's "The Hand"
1982:
Breakthrough film, "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"
1982:
Received critical attention with his score for Walter Hill's "48 Hrs."
1983:
Composed the score for the fantasy film, "Krull"
1984:
Returned to compose the music for "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock"
1985:
First collaboration with Ron Howard, "Cocoon"
1986:
First collaboration with director James Cameron, "Aliens"; earned Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Original Score
1986:
Co-wrote the song "Somewhere Out There" for the animated feature, "An American Tail"; earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song
1988:
Provided the music for Ron Howard's "Willow"
1988:
First collaboration with lyricist Will Jennings, co-wrote the song "If We Hold on Together" for the animated film, "The Land Before Time"
1989:
Composed the music for Edward Zwick's civil war drama, "Glory"; earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score
1989:
Composed the music for Phil Alden Robinson's "Field of Dreams"; earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score
1990:
Composed the music for Universal's 75th Anniversary logo
1991:
Re-teamed with Will Jennings to write the songs for the animated sequel, "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West"
1992:
Scored the music for Phil Alden Robinson's "Sneakers"
1993:
First collaboration with Mel Gibson, "The Man Without a Face"
1993:
Re-teamed with Will Jennings for the animated feature, "Once Upon a Forest"
1994:
Provided the score for Edward Zwick's "Legends of the Fall"; earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score
1995:
Re-teamed with Mel Gibson to score "Braveheart"; earned Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Original Score
1995:
Re-teamed with Ron Howard for "Apollo 13"; earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score
1996:
Composed the music for the Ron Howard directed, "Ransom"
1997:
Re-teamed with James Cameron to score the Oscar-winning blockbuster, "Titanic"; also co-wrote the film's theme song "My Heart Will Go On" with Will Jennings
1999:
Served as music composer and song composer for "Then You Look at Me" from the film, "Bicentennial Man"; lyrics for song penned by Will Jennings
2000:
Again collaborated with Ron Howard for "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas"
2001:
Composed the score for Ron Howard's "A Beautiful Mind"; also wrote the theme song "All Love Can Be" with Will Jennings; earned Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Original Score
2002:
Composed the score for John Woo's war film, "Windtalkers"
2003:
Scored the music for "House of Sand and Fog"; earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score
2004:
Wrote the music for the epic film, "Troy," which was loosely based on Homer's <i>Iliad</i>
2006:
Re-teamed with Mel Gibson to compose the music for "Apocalypto"
2006:
Composed the current theme music for the "CBS Evening News," which was introduced as part of the debut of Katie Couric as anchor
2008:
Scored the Holocaust drama, "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas"
2009:
Scored the music for James Cameron's "Avatar"; earned Golden Globe and Grammy nominations for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for "I Will See You"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Royal College of Music: -
University of Southern California: Los Angeles , California -
University of California, Los Angeles: Los Angeles , California -
University of California, Los Angeles: Los Angeles , California -

Notes

In 1989, the estate of the late composer Nino Rota accused Horner of plagiarism, claiming that Horner's score for "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" blatantly borrowed Rota's music composed for "Amarcord" (1973).

"Film music is this weird, demonic thing where every score has to be absolutely different from any other score--or so the legal paper says. But if you're an artist it's impossible. There's only so many ways to skin a cat. And when you actually look at 'Casper' or any adventure movie I've done or John Williams has done--when you sort of squint your eyes, they all sound the same. Maybe one's better crafted than the other or more subtle, but when you kind of look at the overview, they all sound the same." --Horner quoted in Los Angeles Times, February 13, 1995.

"People don't know where to place me. [One director] couldn't understand that I did a film like "48 Hours" and at the same time did a film like "The Dresser". ... I'm not a contemporary pop-rock guy." --James Horner in American Premiere Magazine, 1985.

"In film you can write in any style, as long as it's appropriate to the film and not be called reactionary or eclectic. For instance, doing an electronic score for "Star Trek" would be like having a misshapen Enterprise. But aside from that, in every film I try to experiment." --James Horner in American Premiere Magazine, 1985.

"As far as I'm concerned, writing for films is like writing on commission--in a certain sense it's like Mozart writing an opera for the Archduke of Austria. And it's a medium in which a composer can write something, six weeks later hear it, and get paid to do that!" --James Horner in American Premiere Magazine, 1985.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Sara Horner.

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