×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

James Horner, ‘Titanic’ Composer, Dies in Plane Crash

Composer James Horner, who won two Oscars for the music of “Titanic” and scored such other blockbusters as “Avatar,” “Braveheart,” “Apollo 13” and “A Beautiful Mind,” died Monday in a plane crash in Ventura County, Variety has confirmed. He was 61.

The two-seater single-engine S312 Tucano crashed north of Santa Barbara about 9:30 Monday morning and sparked a brush fire that was extinguished by country fire crews. Horner, a trained pilot, was alone in the plane, which was completely destroyed.

Horner was one of the most popular film composers of the past 30 years, and his “Titanic” soundtrack – with its hit Celine Dion song, “My Heart Will Go On,” written with Will Jennings – became the biggest-selling movie-score album of all time, selling an estimated 30 million units worldwide.

He scored more than 100 films in all and was often in demand for big popcorn movies. Most recent were “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Karate Kid” remake, but he also scored “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “The Perfect Storm,” “Clear and Present Danger,” “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” and “Aliens.”

He was born Aug. 14, 1953, in Los Angeles, the son of production designer Harry Horner. He spent his formative years in London, attending the Royal College of Music, but he returned to L.A. and earned his bachelor’s degree in music at the USC and did post-graduate work at UCLA.

Popular on Variety

Horner began his career with AFI shorts and low-budget Roger Corman films including “The Lady in Red” and “Battle Beyond the Stars,” quickly graduating to major studio films including “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” and “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.” His 1980s output demonstrated his versatility, including scores for “48 Hrs.,” “Cocoon,” “Willow” and “Field of Dreams.”

In the 1990s he added “The Rocketeer,” “Sneakers,” “Patriot Games,” “Legends of the Fall” and “Ransom” to his resume before hitting the jackpot, both financially and awards-wise, with “Titanic.” In addition to his two Oscars, he won song and score Golden Globes for the James Cameron film.

He received eight other Oscar nominations, including seven for the scores of “Aliens,” “Field of Dreams,” “Apollo 13,” “Braveheart,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “House of Sand and Fog” and “Avatar.”

As a songwriter, he earned an Oscar nomination and two 1987 Grammys including song of the year for “Somewhere Out There,” written with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil for the animated film “An American Tail.” He did the “American Tail” sequel “Fievel Goes West” and musically launched another popular animated-film franchise with “The Land Before Time.”

He earned four more Grammys including one for instrumental composition for 1989’s “Glory” and three for “Titanic” including record of the year and song of the year.

He also scored Michael Jackson’s “Captain EO” theme-park attraction at Disneyland in 1986 and composed music for a handful of TV movies including “A Piano for Mrs. Cimino,” “Extreme Close-Up” and “Freedom Song.”

Horner dabbled in other realms of music-making, including composing new music for Katie Couric’s stint at the “CBS Evening News” in 2006 and, in recent years, classical commissions. In November 2014 he premiered a double concerto for violin and cello in Liverpool, England, and March saw the premiere of his concerto for four horns in London.

Horner also scored music for an airshow by the Horsemen in 2010.

The Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency, which represented Horner, issued the following statement late on Tuesday: “It is with the deepest regret and sorrow that we mourn the tragic passing of our dear colleague, long-time client and great friend, composer James Horner. An avid and experienced pilot, James was flying a single-engine aircraft that crashed in a remote area of northern Ventura County, California, shortly before 9:30am PST on Monday morning. He was 61 years old.

Our thoughts and prayers are with James’ family at this difficult time, and also with the millions of people around the world who loved his music. A shining light has been extinguished, which can never be replaced. It has been an honor and a privilege to have worked with James since the inception of our agency. For more than three decades, his unique creative genius made an indelible imprint on each of our lives and on those of the entire Hollywood community. There is not a person in our GSA family who wasn’t touched by the power and reach of his music, and who isn’t diminished by his loss.”

Horner is survived by his wife, Sara, and his two daughters, Emily and Becky.

More Film

  • Over the Sea

    Macao Film Review: 'Over the Sea'

    The beginning is a fairy tale, or a nursery rhyme. A woman nurses her squalling baby in a house by an orchard near the sea. Sunlight slants in through the open windows, the mother hums a lullaby, and then brings her son outside and places him in a cot suspended from the apple-laden branches of [...]

  • CCA Film Nominations

    Critics' Choice: 'The Irishman,' 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Lead Movie Nominations

    “The Irishman” has picked up the most film nominations for the 35th annual Critics’ Choice Awards. The Martin Scorsese gangster drama goes into the awards show with 14 noms, including best picture, director, acting ensemble as well as best actor (Robert De Niro) and supporting actor (Al Pacino and Joe Pesci), the Critics’ Choice Association [...]

  • Parasite

    LA Film Critics Announce 2019 Winners

    Members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. met today to vote on the year’s best cinema accomplishments. Recent winners of the group’s top prize include “Roma,” “Call Me by Your Name,” “Moonlight,” “Spotlight,” “Boyhood,” “Her”/”Gravity” and “Amour.” List of winners below. Best Editing: Todd Douglas Miller, “Apollo 11” (Runner-up: Ronald Bronstein & Benny Safdie, [...]

  • Jumanji The Next Level

    Box Office: 'Jumanji 2' Kicks Off Overseas With $52 Million as 'Frozen 2' Powers Toward $1 Billion

    Disney’s “Frozen 2” skated past international box office competition again as the animated sequel propels toward the billion-dollar mark globally. “Frozen 2” generated another $90 million from 48 foreign territories, boosting its worldwide weekend haul to $124.9 million. After three weekends in theaters, Disney’s musical follow-up has made $919.7 million and should cross $1 billion [...]

  • Lily James

    Lily James Delivers Masterclass in Charm in Macao

    British actor, Lily James delivered a masterclass in charm and good humor at a seminar on Sunday at the International Film Festival and Awards Macao. Questioned on stage by one of the festival’s senior programmers, James brightly chatted her way through eight years of a screen career that has taken her from “Downton Abbey” to [...]

  • Avengers Endgame Lion King Frozen 2

    Disney Crushes Own Global Box Office Record With Historic $10 Billion

    Thanks to a record number of billion-dollar blockbusters, Disney has become the first studio in history to surpass $10 billion at the worldwide box office. Through Sunday, the studio has generated $3.28 billion in North America and $6.7 billion overseas for a global haul of $9.997 billion and is expected to officially cross the benchmark [...]

  • Takashi Miike

    Miike Takashi's Unusual Takes on Feminism and China

    Takashi Miike chuckles when you ask him if he’d called himself a feminist. “Maybe I’m not exactly, because when I use the word as a man, it feels like it might be condescending, or anti-woman,” he told Variety on the sidelines of the International Film Festival and Awards Macao, where his latest feature, the high-octane [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content