James Horner, the Academy Award-winning film composer responsible for the unforgettable scores from films like Titanic, Braveheart and Avatar, died Monday in a plane crash outside Santa Barbara, California. He was 61. While early reports stated that a single-engine plane owned by the composer had crashed into a remote area, it was later confirmed that Horner was piloting the plane and was the crash’s lone fatality.
“We have lost an amazing person with a huge heart and unbelievable talent,” Horner’s assistant Sylvia Patrycja wrote on Facebook (via The Hollywood Reporter). “He died doing what he loved. Thank you for all your support and love and see you down the road.”
Like many of Hollywood’s greatest talents, Horner established himself by working on Roger Corman-produced films – 1979’s The Lady in Red and 1980’s Humanoids From the Deep and Battle Beyond the Stars feature Horner’s earliest film scores. However, by 1981, Horner quickly morphed into an in-demand composer, working on Oliver Stone’s The Hand and the cult horror film Wolfen. Composer credits soon followed on films like 48 Hours and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Known for his emotion-stirring, string-laden epic scores, Horner worked over 100 films by the time of his death, including the memorable themes from Field of Dreams, An American Tail, Sneakers, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Apollo 13, A Perfect Storm, Troy and dozens more. Horner also scored Francis Ford Coppola’s Michael Jackson sci-fi short Captain EO.
Horner won a pair of Oscars, both for his work on Titanic, which became the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time: Best Original Score and Best Original Song (with lyricist Will Jennings) for Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” Horner was nominated for 10 Academy Awards over his illustrious career. The musician was also a four-time Grammy winner and 11-time nominee, collecting two trophies for “My Heart Will Go On” as well as a Song of the Year Grammy in 1988 for co-writing An American Tail‘s “Somewhere Out There,” performed by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram.
A longtime collaborator of James Cameron’s – Horner’s scores adorn the two highest-grossing films of all time, Avatar and Titanic – Horner was tabbed to work on the upcoming Avatar sequels. He also had a pair of scores for domestically released films on the way in 2015: The boxing drama Southpaw and the coal mining saga The 33.