Two-time Oscar-winning composer James Horner — the man who brought the beautiful music behind “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” and “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” — was killed in a plane crash Monday. He was 61.
“A great tragedy has struck my family today,” Horner’s assistant, Sylvia Patrycja, said in a Facebook post late Monday evening. “We have lost an amazing person with a huge heart, an unbelievable talent. He died doing what he loved.”
Horner was at the controls of his small airplane when it crashed in a remote area about 60 miles outside of Santa Barbara, California, according to The Hollywood Reporter. It was one of five airplanes Horner owned, and according to his attorneys, he loved to fly.
The crash was first reported about 9:30 a.m. local time, with a debris field causing a brush fire, according to reports. First responders said there were no survivors, but it was not clear if Horner was flying the plane. Media didn’t start reporting on the crash until much later in the day.
“We know it’s his plane, and we know we haven’t heard from him,” Horner’s attorney Jay Cooper told THR after reports of the crash started to circulate. “He loved flying. That’s all I can say.”
James Roy Horner was born Aug. 14, 1953, in Los Angeles to Hollywood set designer and art director Harry Horner and his wife Joan. He learned to play piano at a very young age and would later train as a pianist in England before earning a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Southern California.
Horner got his first work as a film composer in 1979 with the Robert Conrad drama “The Lady in Red,” although the lesser-known film “The Watcher,” featuring his music, would be released first.
He would get steady work after that, including films like “Battle Beyond the Stars” in 1980 and the crime thriller “The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper” in 1981 with Treat Williams in the starring role.
Horner’s major breakout, however, would come in 1982 for “Star Trek II,” the highly anticipated follow-up to 1979’s “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (see Horner’s work in the opening credits). Horner was actually the second choice to score the film since director Nicholas Meyer had hired John W. Morgan to do the work first. Paramount, however, was not comfortable having someone so inexperienced take on a film in its major franchise, according to Internet Movie Database, and brought in Horner instead.
Horner reportedly allowed the music he created for “Battle Beyond the Stars” to influence “Star Trek II.” Yet, that didn’t stop fans — and Paramount — from enjoying the score enough to bring Horner back for “Star Trek III” in 1984.
But that would be the end of Horner’s direct relationship with Star Trek, as he would go on to score “Cocoon” in 1985 followed by “Aliens,” “An American Tail,” “Field of Dreams,” “Braveheart” and “Apollo 13.”
Horner would be nominated for an Oscar 10 times, beginning with “Aliens” and “An American Tail” in 1987. But it would be 1997’s “Titanic” that would finally give him a win, both for original dramatic score and best original song, the famous “My Heart Will Go On” performed by Celine Dion.
His final nomination would come in 2010 for James Cameron’s “Avatar.” And Horner was rumored to be composing music for the planned sequels to what had become the top-grossing film in box office history.
Horner has three films coming out this year, according to THR, including the boxing drama “Southpaw” with Jake Gyllenhaal, “Wolf Totem” in September and “The 33” around Thanksgiving.
Jerry Goldsmith, who would compose music for “The Motion Picture,” “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” “Star Trek: First Contact,” “Star Trek: Insurrection” and “Star Trek: Nemesis,” died in 2004. Leonard Rosenman, the music composer for “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” died in 2008.
Cliff Eidelman composed “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,” while Dennis McCarthy — who also did the music for “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek: Voyager” — was responsible for “Star Trek: Generations.”
The more recent films by director J.J. Abrams have been scored by Oscar-winner Michael Giacchino.
Horner is survived by a wife and two daughters, according to CNN.