×

John Williams Saluted on His 88th Birthday at Pre-Oscars Music Reception

There’s nothing like being honored for your 52nd Oscar nomination on your 88th birthday and finding yourself serenaded by 350 of the town’s top composers and songwriters. But that was Saturday afternoon for composer John Williams at the Society of Composers & Lyricists’ annual Oscar music reception, which was attended by nearly all of the original-score and original-song nominees on the day before the Academy Awards ceremony.

Williams — nominated this year for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” — responded by pulling out the ceremonial baton he had just been awarded by SCL and conducting the last few bars of “Happy Birthday” being sung by the appreciative crowd.

The famous composer of “Jaws,” “Star Wars,” “E.T.” and many other classics said that receiving Oscar nominations “rather late in life, mean more all the time, the opposite of what you might think.” Williams’ 52 nominations are more than any other living individual (he has five Oscars already).

Noting that he had worked with such Golden Age giants as Alfred Newman, Bernard Herrmann, Franz Waxman and Dimitri Tiomkin, Williams said “the art and craft of doing music for film is still being developed. New approaches, new sound sources, new ways of managing the orchestra, are a very healthy thing. We have a lot to look forward to, and I’d like to be here 50 years from now to see what happens.”

SCL Oscar Reception 2020
CREDIT: Jon Burlingame

Williams earned the biggest cheers of the event, which is the hottest ticket in town for a composer or songwriter, and as Academy governor Charles Bernstein pointed out in his introduction, it’s the one pre-Oscar event that “brings the voter and the recipient together… people who know what makes a score great, or a song in a film great. We know what you do, we love what you do, and we care about it.”

All five best-score nominees attended. “Joker” composer Hildur Guðnadóttir referred to herself as “the new girl in town,” as the only person in the category not previously nominated. She admitted that the multiple honors she’s received (an Emmy, a Grammy, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA in the past five months) has “been overwhelming at times” but said she has felt “a sense of camaraderie and love and passion for music” from the Los Angeles community.

French composer Alexandre Desplat raved about the New York City musicians who recorded his “Little Women” score, which prompted “Marriage Story” composer Randy Newman to quip “I hope there are no L.A. musicians here,” eliciting the event’s biggest laugh. “Alexandre knows that they’re very good as well. And they can get pretty nasty if someone crosses them,” Newman added to further laughter.

Randy’s cousin, “1917” composer Thomas Newman, thanked the L.A. musicians who contributed to his score (which was completed in London).

All five song nominees were also represented, although “Harriet” actress and songwriter Cynthia Erivo and “Rocketman” songwriter Elton John, both of whom are performing Sunday, did not attend.

John’s longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin (with John, nominated for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again”) said he was “happy to be standing on the shoulders of giants, these people I’m nominated with.” Erivo’s cowriter Joshuah Brian Campbell noted that he was from South Carolina “and the hospitality has felt quite Southern.”

Kristen Anderson-Lopez, nominated for “Into the Unknown” from “Frozen II,” said that her husband and co-nominee Robert Lopez couldn’t attend because he was “wrangling 10 Elsas and one mysterious Scandinavian voice” – a reference to Sunday’s planned Oscar performance featuring Aurora and performers in “Frozen” shows from around the world, all backing Idina Menzel’s lead vocal.

Veteran movie songwriter Diane Warren — whose “I’m Standing With You” from “Breakthrough” marks her 11th nomination without a win — quipped that “people are saying ‘break a leg’ and I broke my hand,” displaying her right hand in a brace. On a more serious note, he said “this movie is about faith, and we need faith in ourselves, just to be musicians. We get to make music — how f–ing cool is that,” she said, her occasional profanity familiar to her friends in the music community.

More Film

  • Rachel Brosnahan25th Annual Screen Actors Guild

    Film News Roundup: Rachel Brosnahan Starring in Sci-Fi Movie 'Distant'

    In today’s film news roundup, Rachel Brosnahan will try science-fiction, documentaries about Herb Alpert and Sasha Joseph Neulinger find homes, and Cameron Boyce’s “Runt” gets a premiere. CASTING Rachel Brosnahan will star with Anthony Ramos in Amblin Partners’ upcoming comedic sci-fi film “Distant.” Will Speck and Josh Gordon will direct from Spenser Cohen’s script about [...]

  • Aldis Hodge Regina King

    Aldis Hodge Gushes Over Working With First-Time Film Director Regina King

    Regina King is on a roll. After winning an Oscar for “If Beale Street Could Talk” and starring as masked vigilante Sister Knight in HBO’s “Watchmen,” King is gearing up to make her film directing debut with “One Night in Miami.” Adapted by Kemp Powers from his play of the same name, the film dramatizes a [...]

  • Jon Berg

    Netflix Developing Female-Fronted Comedy Film With Jon Berg (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix is developing an untitled female-led comedy with producer Jon Berg, the former Warner Bros.’ co-president of production. The writing team of Jordan Roter (“The Tear Down,” “Camp Rules”) and Monica Corcoran Harel (New York Times, Marie Claire) has been attached to write the project. Netflix is keeping the logline under wraps. The project will [...]

  • Bob Chapek Disney CEO

    Why Wall Street Is Unhappy (for Now) With Disney's CEO Change

    We all knew the end was coming. Bob Iger had promised, time and again, that the end was coming. But the rather abrupt announcement Tuesday afternoon that he would relinquish his longtime role as CEO of the Walt Disney Co. — and that theme parks head Bob Chapek would succeed him at the top of [...]

  • Dau

    'DAU. Natasha': Film Review

    There’s a school of critical thought that believes no contextual details or backstory to a film — be they to do with its source material, the circumstances of its production, or its makers’ motivation — should be examined or factored into a review of it, that the final product up on the screen is the [...]

  • The Invisible Man Movie

    Box Office: 'The Invisible Man' Eyes $20 Million-Plus Debut

    With “The Invisible Man,” a terrifying thriller starring Elisabeth Moss, Universal is attempting to revive the cinematic prospects for its classic monster properties. After “The Mummy” with Tom Cruise flamed out theaters in 2017, the studio scraped its plans to form an interconnected Dark Universe and instead retooled its vision to create standalone stories unique [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content