A friend­ship based on trust

James Horner and James Cameron teamed on ‘ Aliens,’ ‘ Titanic’ and ‘ Avatar.’

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Re­becca Kee­gan

James Horner’s mem­o­rable mu­sic and di­rec­tor James Cameron’s f ilm vi­sions are in­ter­twined.

James Horner’s “My Heart Will Go On” added to “Titanic’s” emo­tional punch, sent singer Ce­line Dion to the top of the mu­sic charts and won an Academy Award.

And ini­tially, “Titanic” di­rec­tor James Cameron didn’t want it.

“You wouldn’t put a song at the end of ‘ Schindler’s List,’ ” Cameron re­called telling Horner when the com­poser, who was scor­ing the film, sug­gested the idea. “This is a se­ri­ous his­tor­i­cal drama.”

Horner wrote the song any­way, qui­etly en­list­ing lyri­cist Will Jen­nings and Dion to col­lab­o­rate on his se­cret pro­ject.

He waited for a day when he felt Cameron was in a good mood — a rar­ity on the pres­sured pro­duc­tion — to play the track in the di­rec­tor’s Santa Mon­ica of­fice. The song, Horner be­lieved, wove to­gether the soar­ing themes of the f ilm’s ro­man­tic and ac­tion scenes with the in­ti­macy of Dion’s pow­er­ful voice.

“I thought, ‘ Oh, crap, a song,’ ” Cameron re­called

Tues­day. “But as I lis­tened, I started to re­al­ize how great it was. I felt a con­nec­tion to it. I said, ‘ Let that carry the peo­ple out of the theater.’ ”

Both “My Heart Will Go On” and Horner’s score won Academy Awards in 1998, and the sound­track be­came an in­stant and ubiq­ui­tous hit. There are dance club remixes that in­ter­sperse Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s di­a­logue with the bal­lad, and artists as var­ied as Neil Diamond and Miss Piggy have cov­ered it.

Horner, 61, died when a small plane reg­is­tered to him crashed and burned in rugged ter­rain near Santa Bar­bara on Mon­day.

“James, like me, was not sat­is­fied by hav­ing vi­car­i­ous ad­ven­tures through movies,” Cameron said, re­fer­ring to Horner’s love of f ly­ing. “He wanted to be vi­car­i­ously present, with his hands on the con­trols.”

Though Horner wrote more than 110 movie scores, in­clud­ing for “Brave­heart,” “A Beau­ti­ful Mind” and “House of Sand and Fog,” it is Cameron with whom his ca­reer is in­ter­twined.

Shar­ing an in­tense cre­ativ­ity and drive, they both be­gan their ca­reers in Roger Cor­man’s hum­ble B- movie fac­tory in the late 1970s. They col­lided un­hap­pily on the rushed post- pro­duc­tion of “Aliens,” es­tab­lished an artis­tic trust on “Titanic” and ce­mented their part­ner­ship on the risky, mu­si­cally in­ven­tive score for “Avatar.”

“I knew him back when he was still Jamie Horner,” Cameron said. “James was a very emo­tional guy, a very sen­si­tive, big- hearted guy. Even though he did these in­cred­i­bly ro­bust themes, it was al­ways his emo­tion that made his scores great.”

Their first shared pro­ject was the 1980 “Star Wars” knock­off “Bat­tle Be­yond the Stars,” for which Cameron de­signed the sets and Horner wrote the mu­sic. Though they were toil­ing with low bud­gets and short sched­ules, both men har­bored wider am­bi­tions, and Horner, who had started pi­ano at age 5 and stud­ied at the Royal Col­lege of Mu­sic in Lon­don, made a last­ing im­pres­sion on his col­leagues.

“Bat­tle Be­yond the Stars” “had this huge score,” Cameron said. “To us it was like John Wil­liams. He had been clas­si­cally trained, he knew what he was do­ing. We were all shocked.”

Their first pair­ing as di­rec­tor and com­poser, how­ever, was a dis­as­ter. On the 1986 film “Aliens,” Cameron’s first big stu­dio pro­duc­tion, the Bri­tish crew and editor re­belled against the brisk work­ing tempo. As the next man in the post- pro­duc­tion assem­bly line, it was Horner who suf­fered. He left to score another film, and Cameron added more mu­sic with­out him.

A decade later, when Horner met with Cameron about writ­ing the score for “Titanic,” the two agreed it had been the process on “Aliens,” not the peo­ple, that was the prob­lem.

“With a com­poser, it’s about hav­ing trust, re­spect, know­ing that you’ll get there, work­ing to­gether from the be­gin­ning,” Cameron said. “It’s be­ing able to talk it out. I’m not trained in mu­sic, so I would al­ways apol­o­gize to James and say ... ‘ I can only re­act emo­tion­ally.’ ”

On “Avatar,” Horner tack­led the com­plex as­sign­ment of find­ing a sonic treat­ment for the alien world of Cameron’s imag­i­na­tion, Pan­dora, via ethe­real choirs and eth­nic in­stru­ments.

“‘ Avatar’ was about go­ing into the un­known,” Cameron said. “He wanted to push it away from the cen­ter and Western con­ven­tions. He could run off and do those ex­plo­rations in the score. It was fun.”

As re­cently as late April, Cameron and Horner at­tended a Royal Phil­har­monic Con­cert Or­ches­tra per­for­mance of the “Titanic” score at Lon­don’s Royal Al­bert Hall to­gether.

“Lon­don was a great way to honor James for what he had done for the film,” Cameron said. “I think that’s the score he’s proud­est of.”

At the Lon­don event, Cameron and Horner dis­cussed their plans for mu­sic on the “Avatar” se­quels.

“We’re go­ing to have to find some­body to fill those shoes,” Cameron said. “I’m go­ing to re­ally miss the col­lab­o­ra­tion. It took us a while to de­velop our trans­parency, but by the time we made ‘ Avatar,’ we were just a great team.”

Ge­org Hochmuth EPA

COM­POSER JAMES Horner died when his plane crashed Mon­day.

Jeff Vespa WireImage

COM­POSER JAMES HORNER, left, and di­rec­tor James Cameron back­stage dur­ing the Golden Globe Awards at the Bev­erly Hil­ton Ho­tel on Jan. 17, 2010.

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