I am very proud to have written this story. When composer James Horner was, tragically, killed in a plane crash last year, few knew that he had already written the main themes for his next assignment, the all-star remake of The Magnificent Seven — even though shooting hadn’t even begun. His longtime collaborator Simon Franglen (whose work with Horner went all the way back to their Oscar- and Grammy-winning Titanic) decided, with the approval of director Antoine Fuqua, to complete the score using those themes as a starting point. He reassembled the Horner team — including orchestrator J.A.C. Redford, mixer Simon Rhodes and their music editors — and made it happen. For this story in Variety, I interviewed Franglen, Fuqua and Redford (with L.A. recording session photos by Dan Goldwasser).
For Variety‘s second installment in our series on potential Oscar nominees in the music categories, I interviewed five composers, seven songwriters, a music supervisor and a director. Our main story features John Williams, in his first interview offering details of his new Star Wars score, as well as Hateful Eight music supervisor Mary Ramos talking about Ennio Morricone’s music; and The 33 director Patricia Riggen discussing the late James Horner’s contributions to her film. I also wrote four of the six composer profiles (on Thomas Newman, Michael Giacchino, Carter Burwell and Brian Tyler) and half of the song story (including interviews with Spectre singer-songwriter Sam Smith and The Hunting Ground songwriters Diane Warren and Lady Gaga). And there’s still more to come!
I’m always pleased to be asked to talk about film and TV music. This week, though, it was especially difficult, discussing someone I liked and admired, a colossal talent snuffed out before his time. KNBC came by Monday night, and NBC Nightly News called on Tuesday for an in-studio interview. As often happens in TV news, only snippets of longer, more detailed interviews wind up on the air. My point about James Horner was that he was an immensely talented composer whose unerring dramatic instincts resulted in the creation of music adored by millions. I only wish I could have done this under different circumstances.
This week’s shocking loss of composer James Horner has upended the entire film music world. Everyone I know is still in disbelief. Many are using social-media platforms to eulogize him and recall their favorite scores. On Monday I wrote the obituary for Variety, after word came that his plane had crashed in Ventura County, Calif., and that he had not survived. And today I’ve added some personal thoughts and historical perspective in an appreciation piece dotted with photos of him taken over the past three decades. I liked James very much; we first met in the aftermath of his Titanic success, and over the years we spent hours on the phone discussing his subsequent work.
I love writing about the non-film work of composers better known for their movie scores. Elliot Goldenthal has been commissioned to write his first symphony, and the Pacific Symphony — in addition to debuting the Goldenthal work — will also showcase pieces by James Horner and Howard Shore. Here’s a piece I wrote for Variety previewing them.
Post-Oscars but pre-Grammys, I interviewed composer James Horner about the Titanic experience, how he felt about it and the impact it was having on his life and career. The online version doesn’t indicate this, but it was a big front-page Calendar story with a nice photo of James.