This story first appeared in the Dec. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
I was 10 years old in 1977 when I ran down the steps on Christmas morning to find the double album LP of Star Wars waiting for me. I ripped it open, ran back up to my bedroom and threw it on the turntable. That was the day I truly understood that music was storytelling. I listened to that album day and night, memorizing every single note. By studying those liner notes, I discovered the various instruments of the orchestra, learning which type of instrument was used for this or that cue. My education in music had begun.
So at 10 years old, I began listening to John Williams. I listened to everything I could get my hands on. It started with his scores to Close Encounters, 1941, Raiders of the Lost Ark and so on. The second a new John Williams score hit the shelves, I was begging my parents to buy it for me — which they always did. I would repeat the same process as I did with Star Wars: the repeated listenings, the studying of the orchestrations and, even more importantly, the storytelling.
Those film scores opened me up to an entire world of music, and I was completely absorbed from then on. I started rifling through my dad’s record collection and found Benny Goodman, Louis Prima, John Phillips Sousa, Peter Nero, Martin Denny, Mozart, Rossini, Respighi, mariachi music — the list goes on and on. But what I was always listening for was a good storyteller. John Williams had taught me how to find that. He was the best teacher a kid could have.
Many years later, I was thrilled to receive a Golden Globe for my work on the Pixar film Up. One of the first calls I got the next day was from John Williams congratulating me on the honor. As we spoke, I flashed right back to that Christmas, and I could still clearly see that Star Wars album under the tree. As John and I talked, I realized that he had changed the direction of my life that morning.
On the verge of another Christmas, 38 years after that first Star Wars album debuted, I am privileged to call John a friend, and I couldn’t be happier to see my other friend, J.J. Abrams, get the opportunity to work with not just my hero — but the hero of a generation of filmmakers and composers.
Oh, and guess what’s on my Christmas list this year?
Read more from THR’s Star Wars issue:
- How ‘Star Wars’ Will Change Hollywood (Again)
- Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy on What George Lucas Thinks of ‘Force Awakens,’ Rivalry With Husband Frank Marshall
- The “Jackie Robinson of Jedis“: ‘Black-ish‘ Creator Anoints ‘Star Wars’ Star John Boyega
- Inside the ‘Star Wars’ Writers Room: Meet the 5 Architects of the Franchise
- ‘Star Wars’ Flashback: When No Theater Wanted to Show the Movie in 1977
- Furbacca and the Rest of the $5B ‘Star Wars’ Merchandise Bonanza
- When ‘Star Wars’ Script Was First Shopped: Read the Surprising Memo