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ICONS: John Williams

At 90, composer John Williams is the oldest Oscar nominee ever. This year, he will be up for his next award for his score for Spielberg’s The Fabelmans. One of the most acclaimed film composers of all time, Williams has worked with Spielberg on numerous occasions and the pair are one of Hollywood’s most powerful and influential collaborative forces. This is his fifty-third nomination for the award, making him the second most nominated person in Oscar history, after Walt Disney’s 59 nominations.

If the score for The Fablemans wins, it will be the sixth original musical work to win an Oscar. His list of previous awards began with the 1971 hit Fiddler on the Roof, followed by Jaws in 1975, Star Wars in 1977, E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial in 1982 and, just 30 years ago, Schindler’s List in 1993. He is also credited with catchy scores for the Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and Harry Potter franchises. He has scored all but three of Steven Spielberg’s films, with The Fabelmans being the seventeenth collaboration between the pair.

“We discuss where to put the music and what its function will be in the scenes. I play some little half-worked-out themes for Steven on the piano,” Williams explained. “He never said to me, ‘I don’t like this’ or ‘This is not good’. ‘ He just gives me encouragement this way or that way with his body language, his eyes and his face.”

“Music is probably older than language. It’s very important in all of us – when we’re grieving, when we’re happy. We don’t know why. It’s unknowable. In the end, the film will tell us if we listen hard enough. It’s mostly intuitive.”

“Johnny and I have always been very old-fashioned about featuring full orchestras and choirs in most of our films,” Spielberg added. “I love orchestras. I never leave a composer’s seat. This is my vacation from the movie I just made.”

Perhaps few people know that when John Williams was drafted into the Air Force in 1952, he organized, played in, and conducted several military bands during his service. After his studies at Julliard, he was initially employed as a film studio pianist in Los Angeles. He can be heard on the soundtracks of films such as West Side Story, Some Like It Hot, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Before meeting Steven Spielberg in 1972, Williams also composed for the small screen, for television shows such as Gilligan’s Island and Lost in Space.

THR reports that Spielberg will soon be involved as a producer in a documentary about Williams’ life and career. The film, co-produced by Imagine Documentaries and Nedland Media, will be directed by Laurent Bouzereau.