As movie fans will likely know, director James Cameron remains a technical challenger of the cinematic landscape. Over his long career, he has reinvented how we see the medium in various ways. Among them are his three collaborations with composer James Horner (Aliens, Titanic, Avatar), who died in a plane crash yesterday at the age of 61. While I have already reported on the composer's legacy and how Titanic almost didn't have "My Heart Will Go On," there's been one voice who we haven't actually heard from: Cameron himself. In a touching letter to The Hollywood Reporter, the director shares his personal thoughts on Horner's career and his collaborations with him.
While it doesn't seem likely that Horner and Cameron would be so linked together, there's actually a lot of deeper truths that are explored in the letter. For starters, both began their work on the same Roger Corman film Battle Beyond the Stars. By the time that they worked on Aliens, they had a strained career. Yet it was because of Horner's work on Braveheart and Apollo 13 that inevitably saved their partnership. They would work closely together and end up influencing each others' best moments.
Here's a paragraph summarizing why they collaborated on Titanic:
"When I was doing Titanic, he had just done Apollo 13 and Braveheart. I thought, 'I don’t care what happened, I want to work with James.' We had this very cautious meeting where we were falling all over ourselves to be polite. We laughed about it so much in subsequent years. But we developed a very transparent means of communication which made for a great working relationship. He totally committed himself to the movie. He blocked out his schedule and sat down and watched maybe 30 hours of raw dailies to absorb the feeling of the film."
Here is one detailing his biggest regret while working on Titanic:
"My one regret after that production — or the one I remember in this context — is that I didn’t get to go to most of the orchestral scoring sessions. I made it to one. But the orchestra loved him. He always worked with a lot of the same players. Unlike most composers, he also conducted. He was classically trained. It was his room and they were sure to make something great. If I thought maybe there was something that wasn’t supporting the picture, he could turn on a dime and make it work."
Yet the quote that perfectly summarizes Cameron's enthusiasm towards Horner's work comes in the opening pull quote:
"No matter how [Titanic] turned out, and no one knew at that point — it could have been a dog — I knew it would be a great score.""
It would be too easy to just copy and paste the whole thing, as it is often touching and full of great, sincere stories of two performers who brought out the best in each other and would have worked together very recently on the Avatar sequels. However, what is there is a touching love letter to a collaborator who he may not have worked often with (once a decade), but definitely gave you reason to care. With an impressive body of work, it will be hard to replace Horner and it is likely that whoever replaces him will not be as enjoyable.
You can read the full story here.