Television & Film

Composer James Horner Killed in Plane Crash – UPDATED

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UPDATED 11:01PM JUNE 23 — Representatives from the Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency have confirmed Horner’s death in a statement released late tonight:

“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. We express our love and sincere condolences to James’ wife Sara and his two daughters, Emily and Becky. And we take comfort in the belief that in his last moments, James was doing something from which he derived such great joy. His spirit will continue to soar, and he will be with us always.”

ORIGINAL STORY FOLLOWS:

Composer James Horner, 61, was killed Monday when a plane registered in his name crashed outside of Santa Barbara, California.

Although the coroner’s office has yet to officially identify the body of the pilot, Horner’s death was confirmed by Sylvia Patrycja, who is identified on Horner’s film music page as his assistant.

“We have lost an amazing person with a huge heart and unbelievable talent,” Patrycja wrote on Facebook on Monday. “He died doing what he loved. Thank you for all your support and love and see you down the road.”

Headshot_JamesHornerThe plane crash had been reported earlier in the day, with confirmation that it was registered in Horner’s name, but no one would verify that it was Horner – an avid pilot – was at the controls. Horner’s lawyer, Jay Cooper, told The Washington Post that the plane belonged to Horner, but he’d been unable to contact his client.

“It was James’s plane that went down but nothing has been confirmed,” he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a statement shortly after the crash, which caused a small brush fire 60 miles north of Santa Barbara: “A single-engine S312 Tucano MK1 crashed under unknown circumstances near Cuyama around 9:30 a.m.,” the FAA statement reads. “The pilot was killed.”

Horner was a two-time Oscar winner for his work in Avatar and Titanic, both collaborations with director James Cameron. The two were reportedly working on the next films in the Avatar series. In total, Horner received 10 Academy Award nominations throughout his career.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2009, Horner said, “My job — and it’s something I discuss with Jim all the time — is to make sure at every turn of the film it’s something the audience can feel with their heart. When we lose a character, when somebody wins, when somebody loses, when someone disappears — at all times I’m keeping track, constantly, of what the heart is supposed to be feeling. That is my primary role.”

Horner’s career began with Roger Corman, scoring The Lady in Red and Battle Beyond the Stars. This led to his assignment to produce music for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Cues from those films, along with a rendition of Gayane Ballet Suite, ended up in the score for Aliens because Horner had so little time to work up a score. Tensions ran high between Horner and Cameron on that project’s post-production phase, to the point that Horner figured they’d never work together again. It was Horner’s score for Braveheart that convinced Cameron to bring the composer onto Titanic.

Prolific in the 80s and 90s, Horner composed for many genre favorites: Cocoon, Willow, The Rocketeer, Apollo 13JumanjiHow the Grinch Stole ChristmasThe Amazing Spider-Man — as well as Field of Dreams, Sneakers, Patriot Games, Legends of the Fall, and many others.

As prolific as he was in those days, Horner talked about his career with David Hocquet in an interview back in December, noting that he’d become more selective about his projects.

“I’m much choosier,” he said. “I don’t want to be doing these movies that now 85 or 90 composers want, as opposed to six. And now all these movies, action movies. I don’t get offered all the movies obviously, but I see a lot of them and I do get asked to do a lot of them, and I just know they’re not asking me to do something that I can do something original, they’re asking me to do a formula and I’m too rebellious.”

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Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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