If the Academy doesn’t suffer from short memory, voters could deliver composer John Williams a record 46th Oscar nomination. He was nominated for all three previous Indy films, in 1981, 1984 and 1989, but didn’t win for any of them — despite the fact that his original “Raiders of the Lost Ark” march is one of the most familiar movie tunes of all time.
“The original was a generation ago,” Williams remarks. “It’s an interesting life experience to revisit and rework material that was written by a much younger version of ourselves. It’s almost like sitting down and finishing a letter that you started 25 years ago.”
Williams brought back the “Raiders” march, which is Indy’s theme, but with the return of Marion Raven (Karen Allen) from the first film, he also got to reprise her theme. In addition, Williams says, “four or five” new themes were necessary, including noirish femme-fatale music for villainess Irina (Cate Blanchett), a swashbuckler motif for young Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) and “an homage to ’50s sci-fi films” for the Crystal Skull itself.
Williams praises the L.A. musicians — “you’re accompanying a fast-moving ballet that’s two hours long, and you can’t do it without an absolutely brilliant orchestra” — and even inserted an inside joke for classical-music buffs: The motorcycle chase through the college campus at one point enters the library (actually shot at Yale U.) and we hear “about a measure and a half” of Brahms’ “Academic Festival Overture.”
The five-time Oscar winner is currently focused on music that has nothing to do with movies. He has finished a viola concerto and is now writing a concerto for harp, both to debut later this year in Boston. And he’s writing a piece for piano, clarinet, violin and cello that will be performed at the inauguration of Barack Obama.