August 2015 - Blog
John Williams has scored some of the most famous films of all-time. Nominated for 41 Oscars he has won 5 times for Best Score. The five wins were for: Fiddler on the Roof, Jaws, Star Wars, E.T. and Schindler’s List. The role of the composer is a challenging one as sometimes they write the music sight unseen before the film is shot and other times they start their work after the final edit is complete. A 1980 BBC documentary chronicled William’s experience scoring The Empire Strikes Back with George Lucas, producer Gary Kurtz, director Irvin Kershner and the London Symphonic Orchestra.
The most amazing part of the documentary is watching Williams, Lucas, Kershner and Kurtz watch the Carbonite Freezing scene where Princess Leia says “I love you” to Han Solo. Not only is it one of the most emotional moments in the Star Wars saga (with the best response a rogue like Han could ever give) but it also shows the scene with no music, temp sound, hissing compressors obscuring actors lines and the on-set dialog of David Prowse playing Darth Vader which would later be replaced.
The unfinished scene is audibly distracting, sonically jarring and although picture locked for the edit…almost indistinguishable from the final film as we know it. Williams had to block out the distractions, listen through the audio chaos and create a score that elevates this scene to show-stopping status. He understood the emotion of the scene and amplified the moment with his music…something he has done time and time again to great result.
Filtering out the noise to clearly see what the story needs is a lesson every great filmmaker has learned.
Here’s a closer look at this magic musical moment: