Star Wars Composer Chalks His Cinematic Success Up to "Beneficent Randomness"

Few composers have crafted as many iconic pieces of music for movies as John Williams, who helped define the worlds of Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and, of course, Star Wars, though rather than accepting that he is a genius in his field, he merely claimed that his decades of success is credited to luck. The musician also noted that, while the opening Star Wars theme is one of the most famous pieces of music in cinematic history, it was one of the last pieces of music that Williams composed for the film, clearly being oblivious to the impact the music would have for decades.

"It has been an extraordinary journey with these films, and with my entire career as well," Williams recently shared with The New Yorker. "The idea of becoming a professional film composer, never mind writing nine Star Wars scores over forty years, was not a consciously sought-after goal. It simply happened. All of this, I have to say to you, has been the result of a beneficent randomness. Which often produces the best things in life."

Throughout his career, Williams has been nominated for a staggering 52 Academy Awards, more than anyone in history, and has won an Oscar five times. Those wins include Best Original Score for Jaws, Star Wars: A New Hope, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

“That fanfare at the beginning, I think it’s the last thing I wrote," Williams recalled of recording the opening fanfare for Star Wars. "It’s probably a little overwritten — I don’t know. The thirty-second notes in the trombones are hard to get, in that register of the trombone. And the high trumpet part! Maurice Murphy, the great trumpet player of the L.S.O. — that first day of recording was actually his first day with the orchestra, and the first thing he played was that high C. There was a kind of team roar when he hit it perfectly. He’s gone now, but I love that man.”

Williams crafted the scores for all nine films in the Skywalker Saga, a collaboration with George Lucas that is credited to Steven Spielberg.

“One day, Steven called me and said, ‘Do you know George Lucas?’" the composer detailed. "I said, ‘No, I have no idea who he is.’ ‘Well, he’s got this thing called “Star Wars,” and he wants to have a classical’ — his term, he didn’t say Romantic — ‘classical score, and I’ve convinced George he should meet you, because he admired the score for Jaws. ’ I came out here one night, to Universal Studios, and met George.”

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The rest, as they say, is cinematic history.

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