James Cameron and James Horner met in 1980, while working on sci-fi movie Battle Beyond the Stars. James Horner would go on to set the emotional tone for hundreds of films, but his legacy will be inexorably tied to Cameron, who he worked closely with for more than 30 years.

James Horner scored three of Cameron’s biggest films – Titanic, Avatar and Aliens, and the pair both won their first Oscars together for Titanic in 1998.

James Cameron and James Horner at Titanic Live

James Cameron and James Horner share the stage, with producer Jon Landau, at Titanic Live, 27 April 2015

Tim Greiving talked to James Cameron about his memories of working with Horner:

Is it fair to say your experience with James was somewhat fraught on Aliens?

JC: Aliens was the mistake that we needed to make to know what to do on Titanic, is really the way I look at it now. It was my first orchestral score. I didn’t really know what to expect. There was zero interactivity, so I was unprepared. I blame myself. It’s unquestionably fantastic film music, and there was a period of about a decade afterwards where every single trailer had this cue [“Bishop’s Countdown”] in it.
So it was, on the one hand, kind of triumphant — on the other, we both were really unhappy with the process. When we got back together on Titanic, we both bent over so far backwards you could hear vertebra snapping from a mile away to try to accommodate each other with a process that was going to work creatively as a true collaboration. And I think we accomplished that.

How would you describe him as a person?

JC: He had his inner landscape, and obviously that manifested itself not only in the music but in his flying — because he was passionate about the flying. He was a sensitive guy. He had a huge heart. He always looked for the emotional throughline in the movie. He looked for the emotion first, and he figured out how to enhance that, musically. He was a good friend, and he was very funny — and kind of puckish. At first you could mistake him for being a little bit shy, but he wasn’t really shy. He was just waiting for his moment to strike with the barbed comment [laughs]. He was a great guy, and I think the depth of his emotion and his sensitivity is what gave him a lot of his musical talent. I mean, sure, he was classically trained and he was a pianist and all that. But I think it was that he, himself, was a very emotional person.

How hard was it to lose him, both as a friend and a creative partner?

JC: I have not allowed myself to even think in terms of how this is going to be damaging to my movies, because there’s a selfish aspect of that. I will miss the collaboration. I will miss the fun. I will miss the creation. I had a note on my desk: “Contact JH to start a percussion experiment.” The idea was that there’s this drumline concept that goes through the writing of the [Avatar sequels], and that was becoming so readily apparent to me as we were working on the scripts that I thought, I better find out what this is going to sound like. James is going to want a head’s up on this.

JAMES HORNER: A LIFE IN MUSIC

Tuesday 24 October 2017

The World Premiere of James Horner: A Life in Music is a celebration of the composer’s greatest music for film, including the epic scores to Braveheart, Titanic, Glory, Field of Dreams, Apollo 13, Avatar and Aliens.

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