Williams will be honored at a gala tribute on June 9, 2016, in Los Angeles. The event will return for its fourth year with Turner Broadcasting in late June 2016, followed by an encore presentation on its sister network, Turner Classic Movies.
“John Williams has written the soundtrack to our lives,” said Sir Howard Stringer, chairman of the AFI board of trustees in a statement. “Note by note, through chord and chorus, his genius for marrying music with movies has elevated the art form to symphonic levels and inspired generations of audiences to be enriched by the magic of the movies. AFI is proud to present him with its 44th Life Achievement Award.”
Born and raised in New York, Williams moved to Los Angeles in 1948. He went on to write music or serve as music director for more than 200 television works and for more than 150 films, including some of the most successful movies of all time. His credits include “Jaws,” “Star Wars,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Schindler’s List,” the Indiana Jones movies and “Jurassic Park.” He has a 40-year artistic partnership with director Steven Spielberg that began in 1972 with “The Sugarland Express.” Upcoming are “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens,” and he will reteam with Spielberg for “The BFG” in 2016.
Three of Williams’ scores landed on AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores — a list of the 25 greatest American film scores of all time — including “Star Wars” at No. 1. With five Academy Award wins and 49 nominations, he holds the record for the most Oscar nominations of any living person.
Williams served as music director of the Boston Pops Orchestra for 14 seasons and remains their Conductor Laureate.
According to AFI, “The recipient should be one whose talent has in a fundamental way advanced the film art; whose accomplishment has been acknowledged by scholars, critics, professional peers and the general public; and whose work has stood the test of time.”
Last year’s honoree was Steve Martin, who was saluted at a ceremony June 4. Before him, the tribute went to Jane Fonda, the eighth woman to receive the AFI Life Achievement honor.
John Ford was the first honoree, in 1973. For the first 20 years, AFI mostly honored retired film giants whose most prolific years were behind them, such as Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Bette Davis and Frank Capra.
But in the last two decades, the honorees have been people with still-active careers, such as Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese and Meryl Streep. In 1993, the AFI board of trustees had extended the criteria “to encompass individuals with active careers and work of significance yet to be accomplished,” according to AFI.